FIRE ANT FAQs

Could there be fire ants at my school?

If your school is in the southern, southwestern or western United States, there is a good chance you have fire ants. Red imported fire ants spread from Mobile, Alabama in the 1930s to what is now known as the “Fire Ant 13”—Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Today, fire ants are also found in Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Puerto Rico and Virginia, and, according to the USDA, will likely spread up both U.S. coasts in the near future.

Why are fire ants dangerous?

When fire ant mounds are disturbed, fire ants attack en masse, resulting in multiple stings. The stings cause a burning sensation due to the high concentration of toxins in fire ant venom. Each sting brings welts or pustules that can cause infections, allergic reactions or, in very rare cases, death by allergic reaction. Unlike other insects that sting only once, one fire ant can sting multiple times, which makes this pest particularly dangerous to small children and pets.

In most cases, fire ant stings simply mean a trip to the school nurse. Nevertheless, about one in 100 children are at risk for allergic reactions to fire ant stings, with one percent of this group having serious life-threatening reactions.

Mound containing hundreds of thousands of fire ants
Fire ant mounds contain hundreds or thousands of worker ants that "explode" out of the mounds when disturbed.

What do fire ants look like?

Adult fire ants are reddish brown to reddish black. They have two nodes and 10-segmented antennae. Not uniform in size, they range from an eighth to a quarter inch in length. Click for more information on identifying fire ants.

When are they most active?

Fire ants forage in temperatures between 72°F and 96°F, so they are most active in spring, summer and early fall. In the southern most states, they are active year-round but tend to stay underground when temperatures hit 96 degrees.

What should I look for?

Distinct mounds Fire ant mounds can be flat and hidden within turf or large and domelike (as high as two feet!). In either case, look for “worked” soil with no center opening at the top.


Fire ants like to build mounds along sidewalks or close to trees.

Distinct behavior - When disturbed, fire ants will explode out of the mound in a frenzy, and will climb up a stick. Other ant species react more slowly and are slower to climb vertically.

What should I do if a student is stung?

In most cases, a topical antihistamine and a cold compress will soothe the stings. However, if the victim is experiencing sweating, nausea or excessive itching, he or she may be having an allergic reaction … contact emergency medical services and the student’s parents immediately.

Where can I get help with my school’s fire ant problem?

A pest or turf management professional who has experience dealing with fire ants is your best bet. They can identify the scope of the problem and eliminate the infestation with mound treatments and/or a broadcast application. One cost-effective, proven and fast-acting solution is Talstar® XTRA granular insecticide, which eliminates active colonies in as little as minutes while providing three months or more of residual control.