Monday, August 18, 2014

WIldlife Quiz - European Red (Fire) Ant

The European Red (Fire) Ant (Myrmica rubra), an invasive species in the state of Maine, can commonly be found throughout the northeastern United States. The first confirmed reports of fire ants in Maine occurred in the late 1980s. Since that time, complaints have increased steadily as fire ants have developed a stronger foothold within the state.

A majority of the initial infestations occurred in Maine’s more temperate southern coastal areas, however, humans have increased the fire ant’s dispersal inland through the transportation of infested soil, mulch, and potted plants. Fire ant’s posses shiny reddish-brown body coloration and relatively diminutive size (less than a ¼ inch), allowing them to be easily distinguished from other ants native to the state of Maine.

Fire ant nests tend to be difficult to locate and identify, as they do not construct “mounded” nests like many ant species common to Maine. Fire ants usually inhabit areas that stay relatively moist, such as the shade of shrubs, rocks, or decaying logs. When unsuspecting humans and animals disrupt nests, the fire ants deliver a painful sting capable of triggering severe allergic reactions, which in some cases has lead to death. Not only a danger to man and beast, fire ants have been know to cause a drastic decrease in the biodiversity of other insects in infected areas.

While long-term studies have not been conducted as to the exact impact this will have on an ecosystem, natural science dictates that anytime one species overwhelms all others, trouble will ensue. Thoroughly inspecting soils and destroying colonies if fire ants are detected can help control the spread of fire ants. Reduction of humid or moist areas around yards will also discourage fire ants from building colonies in close proximity to dwellings.

Fire ants have become yet another new invasive species that Maine’s people need to learn how to combat and control.

Wildlife Quiz Questions: 
1. Are fire ants a native or invasive species?
 2. When did the first confirmed infestations of fire ants occur in Maine?
3. How have humans aided the distribution of fire ants?
4. What color are fire ants?
5. How big are fire ants?
6. Do fire ants construct mounded nests like other ants?
7. Do fire ants “sting” when they feel threatened?
8. Can fire ants be controlled?

Wildlife Quiz Answers: 
1. Fire ants are an invasive species.
2. The first confirmed infestation of fire ants occurred in Maine in the 1980s.
3. Humans have aided the distribution of fire ants through transportation of infested soil.
4. Fire ants have a reddish-brow coloration.
5. Fire ants are relatively small compared to other ant species with a body length less than a ¼ inch.
6. No, fire ants do not construct mounded nests like other ants?
7. Yes, fire ants are capable of delivering a powerful sting.
8. Yes, fire ants can be controlled by stopping the transport of infected soils and decreasing humid or moist locations around yards and buildings.

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