Red imported fire ants (RIFA) are highly aggressive insects that were introduced into the United States from South American in the 1920s. Today, RIFA have spread throughout the southeastern United States. In California, RIFA colonies have been found in nurseries, orchards, and other agricultural areas in Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange Counties, as well as some parts of the San Joaquin Valley. These small (< 1/4 inch) reddish brown ants live in large colonies that resemble mounds of sand. Thousands of RIFA will swarm to defend their colony if it is disturbed. Illnesses following RIFA bites depend on the number of bites sustained and can range from small painful welts to severe allergic reactions requiring immediate medical attention.
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