The word "imported" in the approved common names of the fire ant species was probably a poor choice, because "imported" typically suggests that the ants were brought into the United States on purpose. On the contrary, imported fire ants were accidentally introduced via trade ships traveling from South America, their native home, into the Port of Mobile, Alabama.
Two species of imported fire ants are found in North America: The black imported fire ant arrived around 1918, and the red imported fire ant arrived around 1930. Since their arrival, they have spread rapidly throughout the southeastern United States and into parts of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and California.
For the latest distribution of imported fire ants, please see Geographic Distribution of Fire Ants.