top of page

Fire Ants: The Fascinating World of Myrmica Rubra - Red Ant

Fire ants Myrmica rubra red ant UK care

Fire ants, scientifically known as Myrmica rubra aka Red Ant in the UK, are a captivating species that have piqued the interest of ant enthusiasts and researchers alike. These small but mighty creatures have garnered attention due to their intriguing behaviour, potent stings, and unique nesting habits. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the captivating world of fire ants, diving into their characteristics, nesting habits, feeding preferences, and more. Whether you are a seasoned ant keeper or a curious beginner, join us on this educational journey to discover the wonders of fire ants. Myrmica Rubra ants are very invasive.


Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to Fire Ants

  2. Characteristics and Appearance

  3. Nesting Habits

  4. Feeding Preferences

  5. Social Structure and Communication

  6. Life Cycle and Reproduction

  7. Interaction with Humans

  8. Fire Ants as Invasive Species

  9. Keeping Fire Ants as Pets

  10. Caring for Fire Ant Colonies

  11. Fire Ant-Related Products and Equipment

  12. Conclusion

1. Introduction to Fire Ants (Red Ant) Myrmica rubra

Fire ants, specifically Myrmica rubra, are an intriguing species of ants that have gained recognition for their aggressive behaviour and powerful stings. While they are commonly referred to as fire ants, they do not possess the fiery red colouration often associated with other fire ant species. Instead, Myrmica rubra showcases a dark red or brownish-orange hue, making them easily distinguishable from other ant species. A bit more: Latin Name: Myrmica rubra

aka: European Fireant, Red ant. Very easy to keep so suitable for beginner antkeepers, they have a potent sting and if you get stung it's like a stinging nettle. Ant Farm requirements: Air humidity: outworld: 30 - 50% and in the nest: 65 - 80%; Temperature: outworld: overnight 18 and maximum daily temperature 28°C. In the nest area: 21 - 25°C. These fascinating creatures are native to Europe. Myrmica rubra thrives in environments with high humidity, typically found in meadows, mossy areas, and grassy landscapes. They exhibit a polygynous social structure, meaning that multiple queens can coexist within a single colony, leading to the formation of massive super-colonies with thousands of workers. Sometimes, a single colony has up to 100 queens.


2. Characteristics and Appearance

queen fire ant red ants myrmica rubra care

Myrmica rubra queens measure approximately 5-7.5mm in length and display a dark red colouration. In contrast, the workers range from 3-6mm in size and exhibit a combination of dark red, brown, and orange hues. Some queens are the same size as the workers and what makes them different is the size of their thorax, it's bigger.

The workers play a crucial role in the colony, carrying out various tasks such as foraging, nest maintenance, and caring for the brood.

Fire ants possess a unique and distinct walking style that showcases their dominance and territorial behaviour. This "boss" style walk sets them apart from other ant species and adds to their captivating allure. However, it is important to note that fire ants possess a venomous sting, which can be comparable to the sensation of being stung by a stinging nettle. While the sting is not life-threatening, it can cause discomfort, especially if multiple ants sting simultaneously.



3. Nesting Habits

Myrmica rubra nests are typically found in areas with high humidity, such as meadows, grassy landscapes, rotten wood or mossy regions. They exhibit a preference for nesting in moss, as it provides an ideal habitat for their colonies. The moss acts as a protective cover, shielding the nest from external threats and maintaining suitable humidity levels.

These ants are known for their impressive nesting habits, with some colonies housing up to 20,000 workers and multiple queens. The nests themselves are intricate structures, often located underground or beneath stones. Myrmica rubra constructs nests using a combination of twigs, grass, and conifer plant needles. These materials are meticulously arranged to form a dome-like structure that provides stability and protection.

4. Feeding Preferences

Fire ants are voracious eaters, displaying a preference for both protein-rich foods and sugary substances. You can feed them dead small insects which you can crush like flies, crickets, and locusts for example. Insects are needed for brood development (you can feed them live food when the colony has more workers say 50 or more. Boil insects before you give them to your colonies. How? Just place them in boiling water for 10-15 seconds to kill microbes. Our protein jelly is a good convenient way to feed your queens and workers all they need. Feed the ants every 2-3 days. Remove any uneaten remains and discard them after this period or mould could appear. Their diet primarily consists of sweets (organic honey) and small insects or protein jelly, which provide them with the necessary nutrients for survival and colony growth. Additionally, fire ants engage in a fascinating behaviour in nature known as aphid farming.

Like other ant species, fire ants cultivate and tend to aphids, using them as a valuable food source. Aphids produce a sugary substance called honeydew, which serves as a nutritious snack for fire ants. These industrious creatures "milk" the aphids by gently stroking them with their antennae, stimulating the release of honeydew. This symbiotic relationship benefits both the ants and the aphids, creating a mutually beneficial arrangement within the ecosystem.



5. Social Structure and Communication

Fire ants, particularly Myrmica rubra, exhibit a complex social structure that revolves around cooperation and communication. The colonies consist of several queens, workers, and broods, each playing a vital role in the overall functioning of the society. The queens are responsible for reproduction and ensuring the survival of the colony, while the workers carry out essential tasks such as foraging, nest maintenance, and caring for the brood.

Communication within the colony is primarily achieved through the use of chemical signals, or pheromones. These chemical cues allow the ants to convey information, such as the presence of food sources, potential threats, or the need for assistance. By detecting and interpreting these pheromones, fire ants can coordinate their activities and respond swiftly to changes in their environment.

6. Life Cycle and Reproduction

The life cycle of fire ants, or as we call them in the UK - Red ants, follows a similar pattern to other ant species, consisting of distinct stages of development. It begins with the egg stage, followed by the larvae, pupae, and finally, the emergence of adult workers. The queens play a crucial role in reproduction, as they are responsible for laying eggs and continuing the growth of the colony.

Fire ant colonies can reach staggering sizes, with up to 20,000 workers per queen. This impressive population is sustained through a combination of polygyny, where multiple queens coexist, and continuous egg-laying by the queens. The queens have an estimated lifespan of 2 to 3 years, allowing the colony to thrive and expand over time. The worker's lifespan is shorter, 6-9 months.

7. Interaction with Humans

Fire ants, including Myrmica rubra, have a significant impact on their surrounding ecosystems and can also interact with humans in various ways. While they are fascinating creatures to observe, it is important to exercise caution when encountering fire ants, as their stings can cause discomfort and irritation.

In outdoor environments, fire ants can create large and intricate nests, which may pose a nuisance to humans. Their aggressive behaviour and painful stings make them unwelcome guests in residential areas, parks, and recreational spaces. It is crucial to take appropriate measures to prevent and control fire ant infestations, ensuring the safety and well-being of both humans and pets.

These ants are NOT suitable for children under 10.


8. Fire Ants as Invasive Species

In certain regions outside of their native habitat, fire ants, including Myrmica rubra, have been classified as invasive species. These invasive populations can have detrimental effects on local ecosystems, outcompeting native ant species and disrupting the natural balance of the environment. Their aggressive nature and prolific breeding can lead to the displacement of native species, creating ecological imbalances.

Efforts are being made to monitor and control the spread of invasive fire ant populations, aiming to mitigate their impact on biodiversity and ecosystem stability. It is crucial to raise awareness about the risks associated with invasive species and take appropriate measures to prevent their introduction and establishment in new areas.


9. Keeping Fire Ants as Pets

Fire ants, particularly Myrmica rubra, can be kept as pets by ant enthusiasts and hobbyists. However, it is important to approach ant keeping responsibly and ensure the well-being of both the ants and the environment. Keeping fire ants as pets requires proper knowledge, equipment, and dedication to providing suitable habitat and care.

Before embarking on the journey of ant keeping, it is essential to research and understand the specific requirements of Myrmica rubra. This includes creating a suitable ant farm setup, providing appropriate food sources, and maintaining optimal temperature and humidity levels. Ant-keeping can be a rewarding and educational experience, offering insights into the fascinating world of these industrious creatures. These ants are tough and well-fortified, making their colony incredibly resilient. They are active and a bit aggressive, making them an exciting species to observe.


10. Caring for Fire Ant Colonies

Proper care and maintenance are crucial for the well-being of fire ant colonies. This includes providing a suitable habitat, ensuring a balanced diet, and monitoring the overall health and development of the ants. It is important to establish a routine for feeding, cleaning, and observing the ants to ensure their thriving condition.

Creating a suitable habitat for fire ants involves setting up a nest that mimics their natural environment. This can be achieved through the use of specially designed formicariums or by recreating their preferred nesting conditions using materials such as sand or soil infill. Regular cleaning and maintenance of the nest are essential to prevent the buildup of waste and maintain optimal hygiene.

Feeding fire ants requires a balanced diet that includes a combination of proteins and sugars and you can find the best of both in our protein jelly. This can be achieved by providing them with a variety of food sources such as honey water, small insects, and even aphids for their honeydew. Regular observation and monitoring of the ants' feeding habits will help determine their dietary preferences and ensure they receive the necessary nutrients.


Gel ant farms are not suitable for any ants! Also, avoid cheap Ant setups or your ants will die or escape due to the poor quality and inability to maintain the correct humidity in the nest area. The closer to the natural environment the better for your tiny friends.


Find out everything you need to know about your new ant farm in this article: Ant Farm Kits Everything You Need to Know Before Making a Purchase


Hibernation

Please note that you DO NOT need to hibernate fire ants in captivity. Moving their ant farm to a colder room is enough. Ants hibernate when winter comes in and the food is sufficient in the wild. They need to hibernate from November till March, and if you decide to hibernate your ants, keep them in a cool area around 10 Degrees Celsius. You must lower the temperature gradually! Do not put them in the fridge straight away or you will harm the queen ant. After hibernation gradually increase the temperature of the colony (by 0.5 degrees Celsius daily) to room temp (22 Degrees Celsius) to prevent toxicity build-up. This maximises the queen's life expectancy and her egg-laying yield. You can give them a drop of honey, twice a month, during hibernation but they don’t need any more than that. Please, keep the colony supplied with fresh mineral (bottled) water all the time.


11. Fire Ant-Related Products and Equipment

The growing popularity of ant keeping has led to the development of various products and equipment specifically designed for fire ants. These include formicariums, which are artificial ant habitats that provide a controlled environment for the ants to thrive. Formicariums come in different sizes and designs, allowing ant keepers to create customized setups for their fire ant colonies.

Additionally, there are various feeding accessories available, such as liquid feeders and feeding bowls, that make it easier to provide food and water to the ants. Test tube connectors and holders are also essential tools for transferring and maintaining ant colonies during the founding stage. These products enhance the overall ant-keeping experience and contribute to the well-being of the fire ants in captivity.


12. Conclusion

Fire ants, specifically Myrmica rubra, are captivating creatures that offer a glimpse into the intricate world of ants. Their unique characteristics, nesting habits, and feeding preferences make them an intriguing species to observe and study. Whether you are an ant enthusiast, a beginner ant keeper, or simply curious about the wonders of the natural world, fire ants provide endless opportunities for learning and exploration.

By understanding the biology, behaviour, and care requirements of fire ants aka red ants, we can foster a deeper appreciation for these industrious creatures and contribute to their conservation. Responsible ant-keeping, along with efforts to prevent the spread of invasive fire ant populations, will ensure the long-term survival and well-being of these fascinating ants. Let us embark on this journey of discovery and marvel at the wonders of fire ants, the captivating Myrmica rubra.

1 opmerking


Danny Petkov
Danny Petkov
26 feb.

Got my fire ants last week. Thanks for the larger colony! Cool ants. Haven't looked after these for a while, actually, 4 years since I gave them away. I had forgotten how hungry these ladies were. Ate two small locusts today and looked for more. BTW, they love the old A5 nest. Cheers. Dan

Like
bottom of page