The picture below started this post. It is a picture that shows up prominently high on a google image search for ‘fire ant.’ It is also, very clearly, not a fire ant.
Granted, I spend an unhealthy amount of time
getting stung by researching fire ants, and might be presumed to be a bit more familiar with fire ants than the layperson. However, the people who oh-so-proudly and prominently displayed this picture next to a guide for identifying and controlling fire ants were a pest control company, and one could wish that these people would also be a bit more familiar with fire ants than the layperson, particularly as they have taken it upon themselves to educate the public.
I tested my theory that this was clearly not a fire ant by showing it to a non-ant-person, Collin McMichael, a labmate of mine who works on caterpillars and aphids and happened to wander into the room at the right moment. “That’s not a fire ant,” he said.
Here’s another example:
So, I present to you, my collection of ‘Things That Are Not Fire Ants’, as brought to you by the pest control companies of America.
(If you’d like some tips for identifying fire ants, look for a 2-segmented pedicel–the “waist” of the ant–and 10 segmented antennae, the last two segments of which are slightly enlarged to form a club. Their relatively small eyes also set them apart from many of the ants on this page. Also make sure it’s an ant.)
*new* 22. Heron Lawn & Pest Control
20 & 19. *new* Green Pest Services
See also below, this company has about four different ants pictured as “fire ants.” It’s impressive. Also, since these are from a list of “common pests of Long Island” and there are no fire ants in New York I really just have no idea what they’re talking about. I’d give them the benefit of the doubt and generously assume they’re using “fire ant” to refer to a whole different type of ant all together (or, you know, four different types) but the biological description is pretty clearly trying to describe S. invicta.
Plus, special mention to non-pest control company, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
See also: “This is not a harvester ant” and “This is not an Argentine ant.”
2. ESI Oscala
1. (And my personal favorite) PestMall
Actually, all the fire ant pictures at PestMall are pretty suspicious but this one’s far and away the best. Look closely. That’s not a fire ant. That’s not even an ant. In fact, let’s hop right out of Hymenoptera altogether.
That, my friends, is an earwig. 10 points and a cookie to anyone who uses Alex Wild’s formula to calculate the Taxonomy Fail Index.
And finally, I’ll leave you with my favorite picture that I stumbled across in my Google image search:
This is a fire fire ant. (FreakingNews.com)