Fire Ant Stings

Excerpts from Steve Tvedten's book "The Best Control (2nd Edition)"
(Used here with permission.)

[Something Nice About Fire Ants?]    [Do you have a question about ants?]
[Letters and Comments]
[General Overview] * [Colony and Life Cycle] * [Feeding Habits]
[Stings] * [Monitoring] * [Alternative Controls] * [Mound Treatment] * [Notes] * [Control Summary]
[Pests, Bugs and Other creepsy stuff Site Map]

About 5 million Americans are stung every year!

In infested areas, fire ant stings occur more frequently than bee, wasp, hornet, and yellowjacket stings.  Stepping on a fire ant mound is almost unavoidable, especially when walking in heavily infested areas.  Furthermore, many mounds are not easily seen, with many lateral tunnels extending several feet away from the mound just beneath the soil surface.  Ants defend these tunnels as part of their mound.  More than 25,000 people each year seek medical attention for painful fire ant bites.  The sting itself is usually not life-threatening, but secondary infections can result.  To prevent infections do not scratch pustules and treat the sting with an insect bite remedy.   Persons who are hypersensitive to the fire ant venom may experience symptoms such as nausea and dizziness or even shock or death.  Individuals exhibiting such reactions to fire ant stings should see a physician immediately.  About 1 dozen Americans die of their wounds each year!

A person who stops to stand on a mound or one of its tunnels, or who leans against a fence post included in the defended area, can have hundreds of ants rush out to attack.  Typically, the ants can be swarming on a person for 10 or more seconds before they grab the skin with their mandibles, double over their abdomens, and inject their stingers.  That is why some people die!  This does not happen in their native land where the fire ants fear phorid fly species who only live to torture and kill fire ants.  Phorid flies are being currently evaluated in Gainesville, Florida.

Although a single fire ant sting hurts less than a bee or wasp sting, the effect of multiple stings is impressive.  Multiple stings are common, not only because hundreds of ants may have attacked, but because individual ants can administer several stings. Each sting usually results in the formation of a pustule within 6 to 24 hours. The majority of stings are uncomplicated, but secondary infections may occur if the pustule is broken, and scars may last for several months.  Severe infections requiring skin grafting or amputation have been known to occur from fire ant stings.

Some people experience a generalized allergic reaction to a fire ant sting.  The reaction can include hives, swelling, nausea, vomiting, and shock. People exhibiting these symptoms after being stung by fire ants should get medical attention immediately. Death can occur in hypersensitive or older or very young people. Individuals who are allergic to fire ant toxins may require desensitization therapy.  First Aid:  Try applying a mix of 4 oz. per quart of Kleen KillŪ enzymes per quart of water or a 1 to 1 mix of bleach and water to the stung area.

Fear of Fire Ants

An important indirect effect of the presence of fire ants is just the fear of being stung.  Fear and anxiety about fire ants may limit the use of sites where fire ants are present.  In some parks, playgrounds, athletic fields, and campsites are not used simply because of fear of the fire ants in the area.

(Web Mistress Note:  A little license was taken with title and some emphasis.  However, the content is correct as it appears in "The Best Control)