While it is well known that non-native and highly venomous ant species have established invasive habitats in certain areas of the southern US, including the red-imported fire ant in San Antonio, few people are aware that native fire ants in the US have established invasive habitats in other countries. For example, Solenopsis geminata is a native fire ant species within the US that has become well established on multiple continents, including South America, Australia, Asia and Africa. This fire ant species is more commonly known as the “tropical fire ant,” and while its native population in the southern US has been somewhat displaced by red-imported fire ant migrations, the tropical fire ant can still be found in San Antonio where they occasionally invade homes.
Before red-imported fire ants arrived in the US where they rapidly dispersed throughout the southern states, the southern fire ant and the tropical fire ant were the two dominant Solenopsis species in the country. Today in the US, southern fire ants remain abundant, while tropical fire ants have been steadily decreasing in prevalence. However, entomologists and pest control professionals still consider the tropical fire ant to be a significant urban insect pest in Texas and certain areas of the southeast. Unlike red and black-imported fire ants, and even native southern fire ants, no known deaths have occured in response to tropical fire ant stings. However, there exist several case reports that describe incidents involving anaphylactic reactions to tropical fire ant stings in the US. These ant pests are also a threat to pets, horses and livestock. Tropical fire ants are known to establish one or more nests within homes, particularly within moist areas, such as near pipes within wall voids and crawl spaces, beneath bathroom floorboards, and around sinks. These ants pests are also known for chewing on electrical wiring within homes and irrigation tubes on residential and commercial properties, often resulting in costly repairs.
Have you ever heard of tropical fire ants?