Fire Ants, Solenopsis spp.
Fire ants, under the genus Solenopsis, are plant and animal pests that originate from South America. The black imported fire ant (Solenopsis richteri) originally appeared in Mobile, Alabama and the expansion of this species into surrounding states remains limited. However, the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) has spread into Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
Fire ant colonies include three castes: reproductive females, worker females and winged males. The red imported fire ants can build mounds in any type of soil, and the multiple queen colony system increases the number of mounds attributed to a single colony of ants. Fire ant mounds can reach 18 inches in height, and red imported fire ants have been known to negatively impact humans, wildlife and plant species. The formation of new fire ant colonies can damage golf courses, lawns and outdoor electrical equipment.
Formicidae insects, including fire ants, possess elbow-shaped antennae and are generally social in nature. Red imported fire ants can be 1.5 to 4 millimeters long and exhibit a reddish-brown body color with a darker brown abdomen. Black imported fire ants are much darker than the red imported fire ants and are less aggressive when their mounds are disturbed.
The state of South Carolina is currently under quarantine, and shipments of plants and soils require compliance agreements stating the material has been treated with chemicals to regulate fire ants.