Fire ants are one of nature's most vicious creations. They're just like regular ants, except that they mass in colonies of 200,000 or more. Oh, and when they get mad, they will seriously hurt you. Their bites and stings are notoriously painful.
If that's not reason enough for you to be afraid of them, well, we have quite a few more...
1.) Fire ants hurt.
Fire ants get their name from the sensation you feel when you're attacked by them. It hurts. A lot. Some compare the feeling to being burned by fire. Their attack is two-fold. First, they bite you so that they can get a good grip. They then sting you from their abdomen. Ouch. Above is a picture of what the strings look like a couple of days after a fire ant attack.
2.) There's a lot of them.
Fire ants tend to congregate in giant underground colonies. A typical fire ant mound is home to at least 250,000 workers at any given time. Pictured above is an aluminum cast of an underground fire ant colony.
3.) They're coming for you.
Since 1930, fire ants have been slowly spreading across much of the southern and western United States. Many believe that they were mistakenly imported around 1930 and quickly became an invasive species in Alabama. It wasn't long before their colonies began spreading across the country. More areas are invaded by fire ants each year.
4.) They don't hibernate.
While most species tend to hibernate during the colder months, fire ants don't. This is a bad move for the ants, because the cold typically kills off about 80 to 90 percent of a colony. Still, this means that you have an equal chance of being attacked in December by fire ants as you do in July.
5.) They cause a lot of damage.
According the FDA, fire ants account for more than $5 billion spent annually on medical treatment, damages, and pest control in fire ant-infested regions of the United States. $750 million of that is damage to agriculture assets like livestock and various crops.
6.) The swarms.
Fire ants are notorious for their ability to swarm vast areas. They've been known to attack animals around their colonies that are many times larger than they are. Usually, these attacks are successful because of the ants' ability to swarm and quickly overwhelm these larger animals.
7.) They can be deadly to humans.
When fire ants attack, their stingers inject a small amount of a venom known as Solenopsin. Solenopsin is a painful venom for humans, but it can also be deadly for those with an allergy. Allergic individuals who stung by fire ants need to quickly seek out medical care before anaphylaxis can set in.
8.) They devastate ecosystems.
Because fire ants are much more aggressive than native species, their presence can quickly be devastating to local ecosystems. Their frequent and relentless swarming attacks push out or kill many native species, leaving the area bare.
9.) Their colonies are massive.
With an average colony size of around 250,000 ants, fire ant mounds have to be giant to contain them all. The mounds have extensive networks of underground tunnels. Some of these tunnels can be up to 25 feet long.
10.) They don't drown.
You would think that you might be safe escaping fire ants by running into a body of water. Well, the bad news is that fire ants can swim...sort of. When a group of fire ants find themselves in a body of water, they band together to create an airtight, watertight, ant raft. They can go on floating like that for months until they find dry land.
The most terrifying fact about fire ants is that they're spreading further every year. The only sure-fire way to get away from them is to live in a place where it gets bitterly cold during the winter.