This is how fire ants first arrived in my area. During a flood in the 1980s rafts of fire ants floated to the shore on the flood waters. The rafts are made entirely of fire ants. The individual ants on the bottom die, but the colony survives.

fire ant raft
Fire Ant Raft

Ants evolved from wasps, and the fire ant still has the sting. If you accidentally step on a fire ant mound, they rush to the surface and attack in mass. First they bite into your flesh to make themselves hard to remove. Then they sting you, injecting a venom that gives a very painful burning sensation. I’m not sure how this fellow managed to get so many stings. Most people totally freak out and manage to limit the damage to less than 10 stings. However, a fire ant attack will occasionally kill small animals like birds, and some people have fatal allergic reactions to the venom. People that live in fire ant country watch where they step.

Fire Ant Stings

Fire ants are native to South America where they are kept in check by natural predators. However, they were accidentally introduced to the US around the 1920s when they hitched a ride an a cargo ship. There are no natural predators in the US, and the fire ants push out the native ant species as they spread north and west. RIFA stands for Red Imported Fire Ant.

US Fire Ant Range

This figure was from 10 years ago. They have now covered the entire southern portion of the United States. They invaded Australia in 2001 and Taiwan in 2004. They have also spread to China and the Philippines lately.