What do Fire Ants Look Like? Identify Them in 3 Simple Steps

Ant control is important. These tiny critters breed quickly and are able to slip through the smallest crack and crevice in and around your home.

In California alone, there are almost 270 ant species. With so many different types of ants, it is tricky to identify them all. However, it is possible to tell the difference between an ant and a fire ant. This distinction is important to learn because fire ants have a painful sting.

How to Identify a Fire Ant

A fire ant is, not surprisingly, red or reddish-brown in color. However, this reddish hue does not strictly belong to the fire ant species and is not be the only way to identify these creatures.

The main distinction between ants and fire ants is the bodily structure of fire ants. To understand the difference, let’s dive into a little ant anatomy.

All ants have a head, thorax (or chest), abdomen, three sets of legs, and antennas. Between the thorax and abdomen is a waist-like area named a petiole.

Fire ants are unique from other ants because they have two nodes, or segments, on the petiole. They also have no “spines,” or protrusions, jutting out of the base of the thorax region.

Finally, fire ants antennas have only two “clubs”, instead of three. Clubs are the enlarged sections at the tip of each antenna.

Types of Fire Ants in Southern California

Southern California is home to two specific types of fire ants: the Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA) and the Southern Ant. It is extremely difficult to differentiate between these two types of ants.

They both grow up to about 1/4-inches long and have painful stingers. RIFAs are typically more reddish-brown, while Southern ants are described as being more amber in color. Southern ants also have black abdomens.

Both RIFA and Southern ants are known to travel through HVAC systems, pipes, and outlets. They also create mounds wherever they settle, particularly underneath objects like wood or soil. If disrupted, these ants will swarm their perceived attacker and sting. The very aggressive RIFA stings result in pustules that sometimes take weeks to heal!

Tips for Keeping Ants Far Away

If ant control is important to you, then here are some final tips we’d like to leave with you:

  1. Sweep and vacuum any crumbs on your floors and surfaces
  2. Put any dog or cat food away during the nighttime
  3. Check your pipes routinely for leaks
  4. Take out your garbage regularly

Preventive Pest Control is able to rid your home of any ants that may be lurking in your walls or pipes. We can also prevent ants from ever entering your home to begin with. If you’re interested in learning more, or if you have any questions about fire ants, contact us today!