Friday, July 29, 2016


Red Imported Fire Ant Educational Material (click on the thumbnail to view/download PDF)

Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA) are very aggressive ants that are native to South America. They vigorously defend their nests, attack in large numbers and sting repeatedly. For a small percentage of the population who are allergic to the venom, RIFA stings can be fatal.

This is also true of the very old or young as well as anyone else unable to escape the attack. For the rest of us Red Imported Fire Ants inflict painful stings that form pustules, itching for up to two weeks.

Leg w/RIFA Bites
Humans are not the only ones subject to RIFA attacks; ants will be attracted to pet food left out and will sting when disturbed by a hungry pet. These attacks can be quite serious since the first part of the animal to get stung is usually the muzzle. If there are enough stings in the right place, the swelling caused by the venom can obstruct breathing.

The toll taken on wildlife can be considerable. The numbers and variety of reptiles and amphibians remaining in an area infested by RIFA is a fraction of what was there before. Any ground or low nesting birds will be impacted as well. While the Red Imported Fire Ant's need for moisture will limit the wild land infestation to wetlands, one half of threatened species are at least somewhat dependent on wetlands

The attraction of RIFA to electrical current creates a whole new set of issues. Any outdoor electrical equipment is subject to damage by Red Imported Fire Ants. Air conditioners, spas, outdoor lighting and irrigation controllers are all commonly damaged by RIFA in areas where the ants have become established.

Damaged Air Conditioner Damaged Light Fixture

Currently, much of southern California, including all of Orange County, is under nursery quarantine. Nurseries in the quarantine area must bait survey the entire property every 90 days. They must also treat every piece of plant material they ship, regardless of the survey results. Treatment is usually done by incorporating a pesticide into the soil mix at planting time. Not only is this procedure expensive, but the amount of pesticide being used also means runoff is likely to become an issue.

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