The Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta) or RIFA is one of over 280 widespread ant species. A native to South America, RIFA has become a pest in the southern United States and is present in the Coachella Valley.
RIFA possess venom and are known to have a strong, painful, and persistent sting that often leaves a pustule on the skin. A person typically encounters RIFA by inadvertently stepping into one of their mounds, which causes the ants to swarm up and attack in large numbers.
RIFA respond to the pheromones (chemical secreted by ants that influence the behavior of other members of the same species) that are released by the first ant to attack.
The ant stings can even inflict death on smaller animals by overloading their immune system as well as anyone allergic to their sting.
Worker fire ants attach to the skin using their mouth parts and end of their abdomen (gaster) to inject the stinger into the victim. Fire ants both bite and sting, but the sting is responsible for the pain and pustule.