How do fire ants move from location to location? How far can they travel?

Fire ants spread by both natural and artificial means.


  • Mated queens or colonies are transported via infested sod, hay, beehives, or nursery stock.
  • Newly mated queens are transported by vehicles on which they’ve landed.

This is why certain materials likely to harbor fire ants, including nursery stock, sod, and hay, must be certified as fire ant-free before they are sold outside the fire ant quarantine area.


  • Newly mated queens fly or are blown into new areas.
  • Rafts or balls of flooded colonies float to new areas.
  • New colonies bud off–the process by which fire ant colonies with more than one queen start new colonies.

Entire colonies can move from one location to another when they are disturbed, but they generally don’t move far. Winged fire ant queens can fly quite a distance on their own. Studies have shown that distance to be limited to three miles or less, based on their energy reserves. When blown by wind currents, winged fire ants can travel much greater distances.


Related Content

  • Fire Ants and Floods
  • VIDEO: Fire Ants Rafting
  • VIDEO: Mating Flight
  • VIDEO: Disturbing a Fire Ant Mound


Find more information about fire ants in eXtension’s Imported Fire Ant Resource Area.

QR code.