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Appearance - Queens 1.59cm long. Workers 3.18mm-6.35mm long. Coppery–brown on the head and body, with a darker abdomen. Solenopsis has a very distinctive two–segment antennal club, which is most visible in the front view of the female reproductive ant.
After swarming from the nest and mating, the queen searches for a suitable spot to lay her eggs.
Once found, she can lay up to 125 eggs in late Spring.
Larvae hatch within 8 to 10 days, and the pupal stage lasts for 9 to 16 days.
Larvae feed on secretions from the queen’s salivary glands and broken down wing muscles until the first worker ants emerge. After this first batch of larvae moult into workers the queen’s role returns to egg laying – she can lay up to 1500 per day. Worker ants continue with larval care, nest building and food foraging. Fertile males are produced later in the season.
Foraging workers diet consists of dead animals, including insects, earthworms, and vertebrates. Workers also collect honeydew and forage for sweet food, proteins, and fats.
Swarming characteristics – mating between queens and fertile males takes place on the wing mid to late Summer. Males perish after mating.
Nest locations can be a mound of up to 40 cm or next to objects found on the ground, e.g. logs.
If aggravated, these react aggressively and can inflict a painful sting, resulting in a pustule some 48 hours later. These ants are a major agricultural and urban pest, destroying crops and invading residential areas both outdoors and indoors.
Fire ants are a social menace because of their sting. Encounters with fire ants usually involve dozens of ants moving quickly and undetected. By the time they sting, there may be tens or hundreds of ants on your body, and they tend to all sting at once. Stings from fire ants can cause a painful, burning and itching sensation, which can last for an hour. Multiple stings give the sensation that the body is on fire. The impact of fire ants is not restricted to people. Pets and domestic animals can also be stung and injured, and may have allergic reactions or be blinded by exposure to the venom.
Fire ants are very aggressive and voracious feeders on small ground fauna, including insects, spiders, lizards, frogs, birds and mammals. Consequently, fire ants may displace or eliminate some of Australia's unique native ground fauna. This was observed in some fire ant infested bushland in Brisbane's south-west in the early stages of the eradication program.
Fire ants could seriously affect the vegetation communities in natural areas. Their habit of eating or damaging seeds could alter the ratios of the various seeds available to develop, which could significantly change an ecosystem over time. Fire ants also predate or disturb the insects and animals that pollinate native plants, which may also cause long-term changes to the vegetation of our bushland areas.
Mound-building behaviour can interrupt or destroy equipment, such as irrigation systems, and can also damage machinery during harvesting operations.