What Is An European Fire Ant?
Posted on May 24, 2012
European Fire Ant
Myrmica rubra Linnaeus
Size: 1/8 to 3/16 inch
This species is widely distributed in Europe and was likely introduced into the northeastern U.S. in the early 1900s in imported plant materials. It has become a nuisance pest along coastal Maine and is also reported in New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and parts of southeast Canada. (For pest control in Massachusetts and New Hampshire
contact A1 Exterminators.)
KEY BIOLOGY POINTS Where they occur, European fire ants are a health concern due to the painful stings they can inflict. Stings occur when people are outside enjoying their yard or a park or when gardening and disturb the workers or the colony. This ant may also impact the biodiversity in areas where it becomes established, outcompeting native ant species and attacking small animals.
Colony Structure. The colonies are moderate to large in size and contain multiple queens (polygynous). A colony may contain more than 20,000 workers and 600 queens. Colonies are also polydomous with multiple, interconnected nests.
Nesting Habits. A key factor in nest site location seems to be high humidity so nests are typically located under woody debris and leaf litter which retain moisture. Nest densities can be high with up to 1.5 nests per square meter. Like many pest ants, the colonies are highly mobile and can quickly be moved to areas with better resources. Nests are also possible in the soil of potted plants.
Little is known about this species’ foraging behavior, but like most ants
, workers likely follow structural guidelines for much of the trail.
Feeding Habits. These ants are omnivorous, feeding on dead insects and the honeydew produced by homopterous insects (e.g., aphids, mealybugs, and scale insects).
Colony Propagation. New colonies are formed by swarming reproductives. In the U.S., mating flights likely occur in late summer.
Source: PCT Field Guide for the Management of Structure-Infesting Ants, Third Edition