Imported Red Fire Ants - A threat
to the environment in California
Biologists fear Red Imported Fire
Ants may become a significant threat to a variety of California animals
and plants. The naturally aggressive Red Imported Fire Ants sting anything
that disturbs their nests. They will attack lizards, squirrels, baby birds,
such as quail, and even newborn deer. They also pose a threat to endangered
species such as the California gnat catcher, the California least tern
and the kangaroo rat.
Red Imported Fire Ant attacking a corn
worm. (Photo/Texas A&M University)
In addition, the ants threaten this state's $26
billion agriculture industry and could attack agricultural workers and
beneficial insects that protect crops. Red Imported Fire Ants also attack
plants, gnawing bark off citrus trees and feeding on citrus fruit, strawberries,
corn and other important crops.
Where They Nest
Red Imported Fire Ants commonly infest lawns, school
yards, athletic fields, golf courses and parks, where they pose a health
threat to people, pets and wildlife.
Homes and Buildings
Red Imported Fire Ants form colonies close to homes
and other buildings, and they sometimes forage indoors for food and moisture,
particularly during the hot, dry summer months. Entire colonies occasionally
nest in walls or rafters, sometimes moving into buildings during wet weather.
Once inside, they can threaten sleeping or bedridden individuals, and
Red Imported Fire Ants occasionally feed
on vegetable plants in home gardens. The worst damage usually occurs
during hot, dry weather. Red Imported Fire Ants may also be a nuisance
to gardeners during weeding and harvesting.
Red Imported Fire Ant mound at base of
home. (Photo/University of California Cooperative Extension)
Red Imported Fire Ant colony in electrical box.
(Photo/University of California Cooperative Extension)
Electrical Equipment and Utility Housings
Red Imported Fire Ants frequently infest electrical
equipment. They chew on insulation and can cause short circuits or interfere
with switching mechanisms. Air conditioners, traffic signal boxes and
other devices can be damaged. Red Imported Fire Ants also nest in covers
over electrical and utility units. The Red Imported Fire Ants move soil
into these structures, which causes shorting and other mechanical problems.
Compost Piles, Mulched Flower Beds, Pavement
Red Imported Fire Ants invade compost piles and
mulched flower beds seeking warmth and moisture. They also nest under
cracked pavement, removing dirt from underneath sidewalks and roadways
and aggravating structural problems. Colonies in these sites may be difficult
to locate and eradicate.
Around Bodies of Water
Red Imported Fire Ants require water
to survive and are often found near creeks, drainage ditches, streams,
rivers, ponds, lakes and other bodies of water. If surface water is unavailable,
they tunnel down to the ground water table.