Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fire ant on yard-long bean

WW planted some yard-long beans, or Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis, and they have started to flower and fruit.
fire ant on yard-long bean malaysia

But there is also someone else interested in the flowers and beans...
fire ant on yard-long bean malaysia

I'm not sure what the identification of the ant is. I suspect it's a fire ant (Solenopsis), because if one of them bites me my foot/hand will swell up. But then again I always react dramatically to insect bites.
fire ant on yard-long bean malaysia

But it doesn't have the darker body associated with the fire ant.
fire ant on yard-long bean malaysia

In the GardenWeb forum there is a discussion on this, and the consensus is that the red ants/fire ants are just licking secretions, not damaging the plant. I'm not sure, the flower that I took this photo of is now withered... Does anybody know?


Green thumb said...

Well they may not harm plants but certainly can give you some very nasty bites. Generally a small dose application of sodium bicarbonate or Soda, present commonly in homes, helps neutralize the formic acid present in red ant bites.

julian said...

Thanks Green Thumb, I'll try to remember that.

Anonymous said...

Looks quite a lot more like a "Crazy Ant" from the Paratrechina family to me . . . Are you sure it's actually a fire ant (Solenopsis invicta)? Hard to say from a photograph, did it A) attack you or B) sting you? Accurate id is key to knowing its impact on your world.

macadamia man

James Missier said...

This one look more like a kerengga.
Hope they don't farm bringing alphids and mealy bug. They bring more damage to plants than protecting them.

julian said...

*Anonymous* - no I'm not sure it's a fire ant :/ This one didn't do anything to me, but before similar ones in my garden have bitten me - for example if I disturb them when weeding or something.

*James Missier* - thanks I'll check it out.

xenobiologista said...

Hi, I found your blog because I was searching for information about fire ants in Malaysia.

Following up on James' comment about kerengga... confusion arises because kerengga/semut api are often called "fire ants" locally, whereas the proper common name for them in English is "weaver ants". As you (and Macadamia Man) originally mentioned, the real "fire ants" of the genus Solenopsis look different. IIRC they're mostly from South America, whereas weaver ants are native.

I'm trying to find out whether the black and red "fire ants" that have started showing up around Penang over the last few years are really Solenopsis sp. or what. I think they're new to the region and if so it's really worrying because they seem to be spreading relatively fast - not to mention their nasty stings. Anybody who has more definite info on this, please leave a comment on my blog. Thanks.

julian said...

Hi xenobiologista - OK that makes sense, I had weaver ants in the garden before (I recognised because they were making a nest out of leaves).

I can't help on any evidence of fire ants tho.