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Fire Ants and Red Ants: What’s the Difference?

There’s no doubt that fire ants are one of the most aggravating pests on the planet! In addition to biting, they also sting. This is due in part to their high level of aggression, but also because they’re highly allergenic. If you live in an area that has fire ants, it’s important to correctly identify them and take steps to get rid of them immediately. You may see a red-colored ant and go into a bit of a panic. However, it is important to recognize that there is a significant difference between fire ants and red ants. 

Fire ants are aggressive stinging ants, known for their painful bites. They live in colonies and, on the contrary, are not always red. Imported fire ants, which were brought to the U.S. from southern South America, tend to be more aggressive than native species. Imported fire ants include red and black imported fire ants. Knowing the difference can help provide better care when it comes to controlling these pests.

What’s The Difference?

As the names suggest, both fire ants and red ants can be red or black. Because of this, sometimes color isn’t the best way to identify them.

Most homeowners wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. However, by recognizing their appearance, environment, and behavior, you may be able to tell them apart enough to let your exterminator know.

Fire Ants


Fire ants are much smaller than your average red ant – about 1/8-1/4 inches in size. Fire ants also have two petioles. These are small bumps on the back of their bodies. The negative to this is that if you’re close enough to notice this detail, they’re probably already stinging you.


Fire ants are notorious for building large mounds in yards and gardens, as well as near homes and buildings. Mounds can be up to 12 inches wide, 3 inches high, and extend several feet across. When disturbed, the ants will swarm out in a frenzy and attack with a painful sting that can lead to serious complications.

These mounds are usually recognizable, and much larger than your average ant hill. 


It’s no surprise that fire ants are known for their aggression. Even if you are not doing anything to harm them, just being in their space may result in an attack. 

Their stings are highly venomous, resulting in a swollen and hardening bite. When one ant stings, it releases a pheromone that alerts other ants to join them. If allergic, these stings can result in anaphylactic shock. 

Red Ants


Red ants are much smaller than their vicious counterparts. Measuring about 1/4- to 1/2-in. in length. Red ants have one small petiole, compared to a fire ant’s two.


These ants thrive in soil, hidden by leaves, or in trees. They are not found in large mounds as fire ants are. They are also small enough to invade homes through cracks and crevices.


Like termites, red ants can tunnel into wood beams in your home. They leave small piles of dirt on your lawn and in sidewalk cracks. The good news is, they typically do not bite at all. If you were to get close to these ants, they would scurry away from the intrusion. However, fire ants would automatically attack.

How To Get Rid Of Them

When it comes to fire ant control, calling a pest control professional is highly recommended to prevent an infestation as it requires dealing with their mounds and colonies, which can be dangerous.

Luckily, treatment is the same for both pests. Homeowners can purchase natural oils or obtainable products to treat their lawns. It is important to remember to spray your entire yard, not just the mounds (fire ants like to burrow). 

However, it may be best to consult a professional who will have access to longer-lasting products for a more effective result. 

Protect Your Home With Best Home Property Services

One of the best ways to ensure safety from pests is by hiring a professional pest control company. The professionals at Best Home & Property Services are ready with the knowledge of pesticides and plant safety to keep your plants safe. That’s why Best Home & Property Services are here to help you ensure your new home is pest free. Think you may have a pest problem? Give us a call at 843-236-3065 or get a FREE QUOTE right online.

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