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How to Manage Pests

Key to Identifying Common Household Ants


Red imported fire ant

Queen, workers, eggs, and larvae

Colony propagation

After colonies are 1 year old, they begin to produce winged reproductive forms. The reproductives seek out new colony locations during the 6-8 mating flights that occur between spring and fall. These flights usually occur in afternoons after a rainy period when the weather is warm enough. After mating, the fertilized queen sheds her wings and begins building a new colony, and the male dies. Colonies may also propagate by budding where a group of workers leave an existing colony with larvae, pupae, and occasionally queens to establish a new colony. Colonies have multiple queens and may join together to form supercolonies or split into 2 or more colonies. The colonies are very mobile; each one moves at least once every 6 months as a result of extremely wet or dry weather or as a response to an ineffective insecticide treatment. In the hot, dry summer months, colonies may move close to buildings and homes and forage indoors. The peak time for activity is from April through December. There is not much activity January through March.

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

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