Fire ants are one of the smallest opponents you may cross paths with – but they’re nothing short of formidable. These tiny but fierce insects pose a significant risk to our Australian ecosystem and way of life, with the Invasive Species Council noting that more than 95% of Australia presents a suitable climate for fire ants to live, grow, and thrive.
If you haven’t familiarised yourself with fire ants before, it’s important to understand how they act and where you may be at risk of coming across them. For properties in South-East Queensland, this is particularly crucial – every fire ant infestation represents a risk not only to the individual property but to the greater region and beyond.
Here’s our guide to 5 important things you should know about fire ants.
1. How to identify fire ants
At first glance, a fire ant might look just like any old ant – but when you look closer, you’ll quickly see distinguishing features that set it apart from its harmless cousins.
Fire ants typically have a reddish-brown hue (often described as a copper colour) and are between 2-6mm in size. Unlike other ant species, fire ants can seem almost shiny in their appearance.
Learning to recognise fire ants correctly is the first step you can take in keeping your property (including your backyard and outdoor living spaces) safe from a fire ant infestation. If you’ve got kids, ensuring they can carry out appropriate fire ant identification can also help keep your yard and your family safe from their painful bites. This is important if you want to make the most of the outdoor living that Queensland’s so famous for, as the presence of fire ants will quickly put a dampener on days by the pool, playing in the yard, or by the BBQ if they’re not treated.
2. How fire ants behave
When it comes to fire ant behaviour, the clue’s in the name: they’re known for their fiery sting and their aggressive defence tactics. If a fire ant mound is disturbed, fire ants are quick to swarm out and attack an intruding force with scarily accurate teamwork.
Fire ants are colonial by nature, protecting the breeding queen who’s at the heart of their home. As fire ant colonies can house thousands of ants, this can make a colony a dangerous presence to the safety of humans, pets, and landscapes.
As fire ants have the ability to adapt to changing conditions and migrate to build new colonies, they’ve been able to colonise various parts of the world, often wreaking havoc on native species and causing fundamental changes to native ecosystems.
When in doubt, it’s always advised to proceed with extra caution – if you think you’re dealing with fire ants, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
3. How to keep fire ants at bay
Arraying out regular inspections of your gardens and surrounding landscape is one of the most important fire ant prevention tips.
Make a habit of regularly checking your yard and property, looking for potential nesting sites or emerging fire ant mounds. It’s also wise to store any food items securely, giving fire ants less reason to make themselves comfortable around your property. (This is also important when it comes to pet food – leaving this outside may only make your yard more attractive!)
If you do come across a fire ant infestation in your regular inspections, an urgent call to our team can quickly have you on the road to infestation treatment.
4. Fire ants can pose a significant threat
While fire ants may be small in size, their sting is anything but small in impact. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a fire ant’s sting, you may already be familiar with their burning sensation. The sting a fire ant leaves behind can also leave a pustule, which is at risk of becoming infected if it’s not treated properly.
Fire ants can also pose a serious threat to small animals. The family dog or cat is at more risk of being bitten by fire ants if they spend more time outside, and fire ants have even been found to cause significant harm to larger animals, including livestock and cattle.
Since young children are more likely to spend time playing outside, placing them at risk of contact with a fire ant mound, being on alert for any emerging signs of fire ants is crucial to keeping your property’s outdoor environment safe and secure.
5. Fire ants can have devastating economic consequences
Alongside the risks fire ants pose to humans, animals, and property, they can also have a devastating impact on economic conditions when they invade a certain region. Whether it’s from damage to agricultural crops or the expenses invested in controlling them, fire ants create significant costs for countries that are affected by their unwelcome presence. In fact, in Australia alone, the cost to the community if fire ants weren’t controlled was forecast at $8.9 billion over a 30-year period (with data found in a 2004 Invasive Species report).
The risk to our Australian landscape, native species and ecosystems is so great that anyone who finds fire ants on their property must report them to the government. In Queensland, we have a significant role to play in stopping the spread of fire ants (which are currently contained to South-East Queensland) from reaching other corners of Australia, creating devastating consequences.
‘If they establish permanently in Queensland they will ruin our way of life, and have serious health and environment impacts,’ warned the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. ‘Everyday activities, such as barbecues, picnics and sporting events may no longer be possible in high infestation areas.’
The more you know about fire ants, the better you’ll be able to keep your family, property, and community safe from the risk these insects pose. If you do find a fire ant infestation, Trusted Pest Management is proud to offer the highest quality of safe and effective fire ant pest control. Our treatment programs not only remove infestations but set your property up for ongoing and permanent protection, keeping it safe from future fiery visitors. Contact our team today to learn more.