Virginia Invasive Species

Imported Fire Ant

Imported Fire Ant

Photo credit: Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service,

What is it?

An insect known for its painful sting and aggressive behavior. Black to reddish brown, they grow to 1/8 to 1/4 inch in length and are difficult to distinguish from native ant species.


Where's it from?

South America.


How did it get here?

Accidentally introduced in ship ballast in the 1930s.


Where is it now?

They are found throughout the southeast, including all or parts of Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas, and Virginia.


What's the harm?

In addition to stinging humans, imported fire ants are known to attack and sometimes kill newborn domestic animals, pets, and wildlife. They destroy seedling corn, soybeans and other crops. Imported fire ants build mounded nests that disrupt cultivation of fields and create eyesores in lawns.


What's being done?

In Virginia, imported fire ants are established in the Tidewater area, which is now under a quarantine prohibiting the movement of articles that may transport this species to uninfested parts of the state.


How can I learn more?