General and Biological Questions

Are these the same fire ants that are invading Florida and Texas?
No, they are a different species.  The red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) that have invaded the southern United States are native to South America and are limited to warm climates; the European fire ants (Myrmica rubra), which are invading the Northeast, are native to Europe and central Asia.  They thrive in cold climates.

What do European fire ants do in the winter?
In the fall, the ants move their nests into the top several inches of soil.  They remain there until the spring, and their nests freeze along with the soil.

I think I have fire ants, they build large mounds around my house and they are red with black on them.
These ants are not fire ants, but a native ant, the Allegheny mound ant. They are not generally pestiferous and often beneficial in that they prey upon several species of pest insects.


Management Questions

What’s the best way to get rid of European fire ant infestations?
There is currently no way to completely eliminate European fire ants from areas that they have already invaded.  The ants can sometimes be managed, and the best management strategy depends upon several factors.  Please read our management page for detailed information.

How do they manage European fire ants in Europe?
These ants are not considered to be pests in Europe.  Competition with other European ant species prevents them from becoming as numerous and aggressive as they are here.

Can’t we just import some predator to eat them?
European fire ant populations in Europe are not regulated by predators; rather, we believe that they are regulated through complex interactions with other European ant species.  Importing exotic predator species would likely have little impact on fire ant infestations and could result in other ecological problems.

I’ve heard that the fire ants can be repelled by (common household chemical).  Is that true?

We have verified that spearmint, peppermint and neem oils as well as D-limonene, an extract from citrus fruit, show some ability to repel fire ants. By applying these plant extracts we achieved significant levels of protection for plant pots against colonization from fire ants in both field and laboratory trials. While the extracts provided good protection against mobile colonies, they did not prove effective barriers for excluding worker ants in search of food for more than a few days under field conditions.