Red Fire Ants

July 30, 2019


Photographer: Menashe Davidson 
Summary Author: Menashe Davidson 

Red fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) (above left) are native to South America. They’re now found in a variety of habitats across the globe, including in my citrus plantation in the Sharon, region of Israel. Their colonies can be identified by little mounds over the surface of the ground that has a fresh-tilled appearance, especially after a rain. These mounds are circular and crater shaped, with regular inner and outer slopes. They’re built by the ants to enlarge their underground nests that, like nearly are ant species, are composed of numerous tunnels and small chambers.

During nest enlargement and maintenance, worker ants frequently remove soil particles, which they carry in their mandibles and deposit around the nest entrance. They don’t just deposit their loads in random locations; rather they work to re-establish the original circular structure of the mound by preferentially dumping on the most flattened side. Based on my admittedly limited observations, the particles rarely roll back into the tunnel entrance.

These common pests damage pasture and crops, including orchards, and pose a threat to livestock. However, since they also feed upon other agricultural pests, they can be beneficial. Nonetheless, most farmers and gardeners try to eradicate them since the disadvantages of having these ants colonize their land far outweigh the advantages. Photos taken on April 7, 2019.