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Fire ants in Canada are a nuisance for homeowners for their habit of swarming the house. These ants typically build their nests outdoors but will invade your house when foraging for food and make a habit of shuffling to and from their nest. These are opportunistic pests and will build nests close to the house if food is plenty and there is easy access to the home.
Some Things You Should Know About Fire Ants
‘True’ Fire Ants Don’t Exist in Canada
Strictly speaking, the term fire ant describes a very specific subsection of the Solenopsis genus. Following this rationale, none of the six true fire ant species exist in Canada or the Northern United States. Instead what most Canadians refer to as fire ants is actually the European fire ant species of the Myrmica rubra genus. Few people (including professional exterminators) make this distinction so it is perfectly fine to continue to refer to the variety found in Canada simply as ‘fire ants’ as is the case in this article.
What Fire Ants Look Like
Fire ants are relatively easy to identify. Most are reddish-brown in colour although the hue can vary from a medium to black.
The typical worker measures between 2 mm to 5 mm long while the queen is the largest and can grow up to 25 mm long. Some workers can grow up to 13 mm long.
The fire ant has two small nodes (segments) between the thorax and abdomen. Each antenna has a club with two segments. The ants have six legs.
Winged fire ants are rare and include a male drone or virgin queen. The queen sheds its wings immediately she mates for the first time while the male winged drone dies immediately after mating with the queen. This is why winged fire ants are so rare.
Fire Ant Colonies
Fire ants prefer to build their colonies under natural shelter. Their nests are often found around the base of trees, in rotting logs and stumps, in mounds of leaf litter and under bricks, timber and rocks.
Where there is no cover, the ants build dome-shaped mounds. These mounds are large reaching up to 16 inches high in idyllic soil conditions. In any case, these nests contain a vast and complex network of tunnels which is one reason why fire ants are notoriously difficult to exterminate.
Fire Ant Feeding Habits
Fire ants are omnivorous which allows them to survive almost anywhere they nest. Outdoors they feed on animal and plant material. The ant’s diet mainly includes carbohydrates, fat and protein. This flexible diet also makes homes perfect foraging ground because these foods are abundant.
Fire Ant Bites and Stings
Anyone who has been bitten by a fire ant understands the reason why these ants are named as such. The attack leaves a burning and itching sensation.
It is not so much the bite that hurts but the venom. Fire ants bite simply for grip before injecting toxic venom (Solenopsin) into the victim using a stinger located on the abdomen. The burning or itching sensation is caused more by the venom rather than the bite.
Hire a Professional Exterminator
Getting rid of fire ants in Toronto is a long process that begins with identifying nests and using the most appropriate extermination method. DIY extermination is almost guaranteed to fail because of the vast network of tunnels in your typical nest. Additionally, over-the-counter pesticides simply don’t work. Only a professional ant exterminator can guarantee permanent fire ant removal.