Red imported fire ant

Page last updated: Monday, 30 May 2022 - 12:22pm

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How to identify Red imported fire ant


Many different sized ants can be found in one nest


Red imported fire ant (RIFA), Solenopsis invicta, is one of the most serious and invasive ant pests in the world, because of its harmful effects on people, agriculture, flora and fauna, infrastructure and recreational activities.

Below is information on what to look for. This identification video (courtesy of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program) may be useful if you are looking for nests or observing ants.  Although please keep in mind any RIFA nests in WA will look different to nests in Queensland due to our sandy soils.

What to look for

  • Hard to distinguish from common native ants.
  • 2-8mm, reddish brown in colour with a darker abdomen.
  • Ants of varying sizes in one nest.
  • Nests that often have no visible entry holes like other ant nests.
  • Young nests can be indistinct or start out as small piles of excavated soil.
  • A fiery sting that can blister and form pustules at the sting site.

Where to look

RIFA nests may be found next to or under other objects on the ground, such as timber, logs, rocks, pavers or bricks. Look near pots or any areas of disturbed ground as well as:

  • pot plants on the ground
  • stores of topsoil, mulch and potting mixes
  • open areas like lawns, firebreaks or fence lines.
  • under landscape materials (e.g. logs, stones)
  • under timber or pallets on the ground
  • adjacent to buildings and other structures
  • untidy or overgrown areas
  • near areas of permanent water (e.g. the banks of dams, rivers, ponds, aquaculture containers)
  • tufts of grass in open areas, where the soil is built up around the tufts.