The bodies of fire ants are 2 to 6 mm long and like all insects’ bodies, are broken up into three sections: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen, with three pairs of legs and a pair of antennae.
Fire ants can be distinguished from other ants by their copper brown head and body with a darker abdomen. The worker ants are blackish to reddish. These different sizes of the ants can all exist in the same nest.
A typical fire ant colony produces large mounds in open areas, and feeds mostly on young plants, seeds, and sometimes crickets. Fire ants often attack small animals and can kill them. Unlike many other ants, which bite and then spray acid on the wound, fire ants only bite to get a grip and then sting (from the abdomen) and inject a toxic venom.
For humans, this is a painful sting, a sensation similar to what one feels when burned by fire and hence the name fire ants. Although fire ants do not typically seek out and attack the face, they are as likely to attack an exposed and vulnerable face as any other body part. The venom is both insecticidal and antibiotic.
Fire ants nest in the soil, often near moist areas, such as river banks, pond edges, watered lawns and highway edges. Usually the nest will not be visible as it will be built under objects such as timber, logs, rocks, pavers, bricks, etc. If there is no cover for nesting, dome-shaped mounds will be constructed, but this is usually only found in open spaces such as fields, parks and lawns. These mounds can reach heights of 40 cm (15.7 in).
Colonies are founded by small groups of queens or single queens. Even if only one queen survives, within a month or so the colony can expand to thousands of individuals. Some colonies may be polygynous (having multiple queens per nest).
Classes among Fire Ants
A queen is generally the largest individual in the colony. The primary function of the queen is reproduction; she may live for 6-7 years and produce up to 1,500 eggs per day. Many fire ant colonies will have more than one queen.
Mate with the queen ant in order to produce eggs.
The workers are sterile females who build and repair the nest, care for the young, defend the nest, and feed both young and adult ants. The worker ants also go find supplies to build the nest.