Imported Fire Ants Glossary

Imported Fire Ants April 30, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF

Below is a glossary of terms used in conjunction with fire ant biology and control.

Imported Fire Ants Glossary

A - C        D - H       I - P        R - Z

the posterior (hindmost) of the three body regions on a fire ant (head, thorax, abdomen)
active ingredient
the material in a pesticide formulation that actually destroys the target pest or performs the desired function; pesticide labels are required by law to show the active ingredient and its percentage; abbreviated as a.i.; for more information, see Finding Active Ingredients on a Pesticide Label
supply with air or expose to air circulation
a chemical compound with a high pH; fire ant venom is composed of alkaloids and proteins; the primary alkaloid in fire ant venom is piperidine
alate, alates (pl.)
a winged, reproductive form of some insects
any of a class of cold-blooded animals (such as frogs and newts) with backbones (vertebrates) and having aquatic larvae and air-breathing adults
antenna, antennae (pl.)
one of the paired flexible, jointed parts on the head of an insect, used for detecting various environmental factors, such as food or pheromones
Fire ant head and antennae.
front; the front view of something;  if you looked into a fire ant's face (see photo), that would be the anterior view.
any of a group of animals without backbones, such as insects and spiders, that have a segmented body, jointed limbs and an outer shell that is shed periodically (molted)
a substance used to attract an organism, e.g pheromones, bait, sugar
food or other attractant used to lure an animal
a device or material used on ships (usually ballast tanks) that controls buoyancy and stability
of, at, or forming the base of something
producing or promoting a favorable result; advantageous; beneficial insects are insects that work in ways that are helpful to an ecosystem, like pollination or pest control
biological control
using one or more organisms to control another
the young of certain animals; in fire ants, the eggs, larvae and pupae make up the brood
behavior or device used to conceal or hide; a disguise; in biology, a coloration or pattern that blends in with a background and hides an organism, making it difficult to detect; slang=camo
a form (such as worker ant) of a social insect (ant) that carries out a particular function in the colony or an ant's rank in the colony according to its function
1 cm = 0.39 inches.
To convert cm to inches = cm x 0.39
To convert in to cm = in x 2.54
the color pattern of an organism; an arrangement of colors
something that competes with another, as in sports or business or nature; a rival
compound eye
an eye composed of many light-sensitive parts (ommatidia), each of which is represented externally by a facet, that focus light on the retina, which helps form an image; most insects have compound eyes
of, relating to, or shaped like a cone
the basal segment of the leg
the part of the body that encloses the brain
material or substances artificially grown, usually in a prepared medium
dichotomous key
a chart used to identify organisms that consists of characteristics that are arranged in twos; see Be An Ant Detective!
dispersal (biological dispersal) 
In its simplest form, dispersal is the way species move from one place to another
the emergence of an adult insect from a pupal case or an insect larva from an egg
an area on the side of the thorax
in biology, the complete elimination of a species from a geographical area
reproductive specialization; breeding for specialized jobs within the ant colony
to remove by digging or scooping out
an ant's outer covering; a protective covering, like armor; it is the exoskeleton that is molted
the third leg segment, located between the trochanter and the tibia
fermentation products
insecticide ingredients such as abamectin and spinosad produced by micro-organisms; microbes are cultured (grown in a prepared medium) and exude the active ingredients, which are then isolated for formulation as insecticide active ingredients
fire ant
a group of ants named Solenopsis.  Two species, red imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta Buren; and black imported fire ants, Solenopsis richteri Forel; and their hybrid are invasive species of stinging insects that can cause serious medical, economic and ecologic problems.  In the United States they are called are called imported fire ants because they are not native to the United States; see also Fire Ant Nomenclature and Terminology.
to grow well or luxuriantly; thrive
food chain
a series of organisms in community in which each organism uses the next, usually lower, member as a food source
food web
all the food chains in an area
forage, foraging
to look for food
one of the front legs
form (noun)
shape and structure of something; stage of development, such as a winged form of a fire ant
fungus, fungi (pl.)
any of a major group of flowerless plants (such as molds, mildews and mushrooms) that do not have chlorophyll and are parasites or live on dead or decaying organic matter
the hindmost portion of an ant's anatomy; the rounded part of the abdomen behind the petiole; in Greek, belly
genus, genera (pl.)
a group of plants or animals with similar characteristics. The animal kingdom, which includes insects, is taxonomically structured by kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species.  Example:  The imported fire ant is classified as Animal (kingdom), Arthropoda (phylum), Insecta or Hexapoda (class), Hymenoptera (order), Formicidae (family), Solenopsis (genus), invicta (species).  The genus and species are always italicized.
the anterior body region that bears the eyes, antennae and mouthparts
hold (noun)
in transportation, the lower interior part of a ship or airplane where cargo is stored
a sweet sticky substance excreted by various insects, especially aphids, on the leaves of plants
See integrated pest management
the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known
to bring or carry in from an outside source, especially to bring in (goods or materials) from a foreign country for trade or sale
not native or natural to a region or country; moved from one country to another either by accident or by design; imported fire ants are not native to the United States
a group of organisms in numbers large enough to be harmful, threatening or obnoxious
an invertebrate animal in the phylum Arthropoda, Class Insecta; insects are arthropods classified by three characteristics: (1)segmented body (head, thorax, and abdomen); (2)only three pairs of legs; (3)one or two pairs of wings though some are wingless; imported fire ants are insects in the Order Hymenoptera along with bees and wasps.
a stage of an insect's or other arthropod's life between molts
integrated pest management (IPM)
IPM is the abbreviation for Integrated Pest Management. IPM is a strategy used to manage insect pests in the landscape by using economically and environmentally sustainable practices. The concept of chemical treatment as a singular means to control plant pests is no longer viable or acceptable. The goal of IPM is not necessarily to to eradicate or eliminate pests, but to strengthen and stabilize the landscape (ecosystem) so that conditions are favorable for plants but not favorable for pests. This is achieved by employing certain practices to prevent or avoid anticipated pest problems rather than treating them once they occur.
invasive species
a species that is foreign to an ecosystem and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic, medical or environmental harm; invasive species can be plants, animals, and other organisms (e.g., microbes); human actions are the primary means of invasive species introductions. Source: Online at, National Invasive Species Information Center, USDA National Agricultural Library
lacking a spinal column or backbone; insects are invertebrates
a young, wingless, often worm-like form (such as a grub or caterpillar) that hatches from the egg of many insects
of, at, from or to the side
any of a class of warm-blooded vertebrates that include human beings and all other animals that feed their young with milk produced by mammary glands and have the skin usually more or less covered with hair
jaw; an insect has two mandibles which work together with other structures to form the insect's mouthparts
mate (verb)
to pair (animals) for breeding
having a membrane; somewhat transparent
the lateral sclerite of the mesothorax; the upper part of the episternum of the mesothorax (meso=middle)
the middle part of the insect's thorax
change in developmental stages (Example: larva to pupa to adult)
the lateral sclerite of the metathorax (meta=after, beyond)
the hindmost segment of the insect's thorax
middle leg
second pair of legs
minim, minims (pl.)
a very small fire ant worker
shed an outer covering or skin (cuticle); in insects, usually occurs during the nymphal or larval stage
monogyne, monogynous (adj.)
social insect colonies with one queen.
the size, shape and color of an organism; the outward appearance; often the way one species is differentiated from another
the above ground portion of the fire ant nest, part of the area where fire ants have excavated tunnels in the soil where they live
originating, growing, produced or occurring naturally in a certain place or region
occurring in the breeding season, as in a nuptial flight when fire ants mate
nurse ants
young fire ant workers in a colony that tend the queen and move the brood around
eating both animal and vegetable foods
to lay eggs
the egg-laying structure on a reproductive fire ant; functions as a stinger on non-reproductives (worker ants)
the second segment of the antenna; the stem of the abdomen between the thorax and the gaster (ants)
a slender, stalk-like body part that connects the thorax and abdomen in certain insects
a chemical signal that triggers a natural behavioral response in another member of the same species
refers to the longer hairs on a fire ant's body, generally used for tactile perception; however, they also play a role in development in aiding the removal of the pupal or larval skin
a chemical compound; piperidine is the alkaloid component in fire ant venom; fire ant venom is composed of alkaloids and proteins; piperidine is a relative of piperine, the main chemical ingredient in black pepper
the lateral sclerite of thoracic segment of an insect between the tergum and the sternum
polygyne, polygynous (adj.)
social insect colonies with more than one queen
occurring in more than one form (morph); colonies with different sizes of ants are polymorphic
hindmost or rear; the opposite of anterior
the ability of something to develop or become actual
the terminal segment of the leg, typically consisting of a pair of claws and one or more padlike structures
the two lateral surfaces of the pleuron of the prothorax
a complex group of organic molecules that are the basic components of all living cells
the anterior of three thoracic segments
covered with fine, soft short hairs; covering of short hairs on an ant's body
an insect in the seemingly inactive stage of development (not feeding), the intermediate development stage between larva and adult; pupae=plural; pupate=verb
to extend like rays in straight lines from a center
males and female ants with wings; reproductives fly from the colony into which they were born to mate and start their own colonies
any of a group of cold-blooded, air-breathing vertebrates, such as snakes, lizards, turtles and alligators, that usually lay eggs and have skin covered with scales or bony plates
the basal segment of the antennae
a hardened body wall plate bounded by sutures or membranous areas
social insects
groups of insects living in more or less organized communities with each group having a function
Solenopsis invicta
the scientific name of the red imported fire ant , a species of fire ant that was brought to the United States from South America; Solenopsis is the genus, invicta is the species; genus and species are always italicized; read more about writing scientific names.
Solenopsis richteri
the scientific name of the black imported fire ant, a species of fire ant that was brought to the United States from South America; Solenopsis is the genus, richteri is the species; genus and species are always italicized; read more about writing scientific names.
a category of living things that can produce fertile offspring
breathing holes located on the ant's thorax; part of the exoskeleton (integument)
a sharp, pointed organ, attached to a venom gland, often filled with venom, capable of inflicting painful injury
the line of junction adjoining two body structures, much like a seam
the leg segment immediately beyond the tibia, sometimes consisting of one or more segments or subdivisions
the science of classifying and naming things
thorax, thoracic (adj.)
in insects, the body region behind the head, which bears the legs and wings
the fourth segment of the leg, between the femur and the tarsus
the second segment of the leg, between the coxa and the femur
the mouth-to-mouth exchange of food between adults and larvae of some insects. Watch this video.
underground "roads" dug by the fire ants for they can move from place to placeWatch this video.
water table
the level below which the ground is completely soaked with water


Fire Ant Nomenclature and Terminology

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.