European Fire Ant

The European fire ant is an aggressive, invasive ant that is expanding its range in Canada. 

 

Why are European fire ants a problem?

European fire ants attack people and pets who get too close to their outdoor nests, delivering painful stings and making yards unusable.

 

What do European fire ants look like?

European fire ants are identified by their colour and ability to sting. Key characteristics:

  • Size: 4 to 5 mm or 3/16 inch
  • Colour range: light reddish brown
  • Distinguishing features: fine hair covers body; has a stinger and can sting repeatedly; stings create a burning sensation, hence the name ‘fire’ ant

 

What should I know about European fire ants?

European fire ants are an invasive species in Canada. Originally from Europe and northern Asia, they were introduced to North America 100 years ago via international trade. In the past three decades, however, the European fire ant has significantly expanded its range across Canada. It has been documented in Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes and British Columbia. People spread the ants to new locations in Canada by moving infested soil, mulch and potted plants.

European fire ants make their nests in moist soil. Mounds of soil may identify a nest site, but mostly the nests are not noticeable, which makes them easy to step on and disturb.

When nests are disturbed, the ants swarm nearby people and animals, delivering painful stings that itch and burn and raise red welts. The ants can sting repeatedly.

European fire ants create supercolonies of interconnected nests. Each nest has multiple queens and 300 to more than 10,000 worker ants. Heavily infested yards may have up to 1.5 nests per square metre.  Colonies grow by ‘budding,’ or when queens and worker ants split from the main colony to form new nests.

European fire ants feed on bugs, seeds, plant secretions, sees and sweet honeydew (made from plant sap by aphid, mealybug and scale insects). They help disperse the seeds of invasive plants, allowing these plants to spread.

The ants are most active in late spring through early fall when temperatures are warmer.

European fire ants can be mistaken for thief ants, which make mounds in the turf.  Spraying a topical ant repellent to control thief ants, however, will cause European fire ants to panic and split into more nests, causing a bigger ant problem.

 

Where are European fire ants found indoors?

Thankfully, European fire ants are not found indoors. They are an outdoor pest.

 

Where are European fire ants found outdoors?

European fire ants are found outdoors in soil, leaf litter and wood debris. They nest in lawns, gardens, golf courses, recreational fields, fallow fields, scrub and shrub habitats, forests, and coastal zones. Nests are often found near plant roots and under debris and yard ornaments. The ants prefer moist soil in shaded areas.

 

How do European fire ants get into the yard?

European fire ants get into the yard when you accidently bring in infested soil, mulch and potted plants. They also may come in from a neighbouring property that is infested. Read our expert guide: How to Get Rid of Ants Outside.

 

What are the best DIY ant killers for European Fire Ants?

It is important to use the right pest control products to kill European fire ants or you will make the ant problem worse:

  •  Ant traps -- The best ant killers for European fire ants are ant traps (also called ant bait stations), which are filled with an insecticide bait. Foraging ants take the bait back to the colony where it is shared among the workers, larvae (baby ants) and queens. To eliminate European fire ants, you must kill the queens. Place ant traps outdoors where the ants are active and near nests. Use slow-acting sweet- and fat-based insecticide baits. Learn more about ant traps and insecticide baits and how to use them. 

 

Also read:

5 Steps to Get Rid of Ants for Good

7 Common Ant Pests in Canada

Why Do I Have Ants?

How to Inspect for Ants

How to Follow an Ant Trail

The Best DIY Ant Killers in Canada

How to Keep Ants Out

How to Get Rid of Ants Outside

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