Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA) are very aggressive ants that are native to South America. They vigorously defend their nests, attack in large numbers and sting repeatedly. For a small percentage of the population who are allergic to the venom, RIFA stings can be fatal.
This is also true of the very old or young as well as anyone else unable to escape the attack. For the rest of us Red Imported Fire Ants inflict painful stings that form pustules, itching for up to two weeks.
Humans are not the only ones subject to RIFA attacks; ants will be attracted to pet food left out and will sting when disturbed by a hungry pet. These attacks can be quite serious since the first part of the animal to get stung is usually the muzzle. If there are enough stings in the right place, the swelling caused by the venom can obstruct breathing.
The toll taken on wildlife can be considerable. The numbers and variety of reptiles and amphibians remaining in an area infested by RIFA is a fraction of what was there before. Any ground or low nesting birds will be impacted as well. While the Red Imported Fire Ant's need for moisture will limit the wild land infestation to wetlands, one half of threatened species are at least somewhat dependent on wetlands
The attraction of RIFA to electrical current creates a whole new set of issues. Any outdoor electrical equipment is subject to damage by Red Imported Fire Ants. Air conditioners, spas, outdoor lighting and irrigation controllers are all commonly damaged by RIFA in areas where the ants have become established.