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Fire Ant Danger

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A fire ant species called either Solenopsis invicta or S. wagneri first entered the United States in the 1930s and has been steadily spreading northward ever since. Unlike native species, the "red imported fire ant" is quite aggressive and will deliver multiple, painful stings if threatened.

When a fire ant bites, it holds the victim long enough to inject a toxic venom into the skin. The resulting sting feels like being burned by a match tip. In defending their nests, fire ants will swarm by the hundreds or thousands - each one delivering this painful sting to the victim. Small animals can easily be killed by fire ants, and people who are allergic or very sensitive to the venom may suffer a severe or even fatal reaction.

Treating Fire Ant Stings

If stung by fire ants, a person can apply hydrocortisone ointment to each bite in order to reduce itching, swelling, and pain. Antihistamine, taken orally, can help suppress symptoms as well. Despite the sometimes bothersome itching sensation, scratching can lead to infection and should be avoided. Any more serious reactions could be life-threatening and warrant a visit to the emergency room immediately.

  • Chest pain
  • Excess perspiration
  • Excessive swelling
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slurred speech

Getting Rid of Fire Ant Nests

Red imported fire ants may build their nests inside the ground beneath logs, rocks, or other objects, but they are most well known for building large mounds in open areas like yards. These mounds can be as much as 15 inches tall and are extremely dangerous to have near populated areas. If the mounds are unknowingly stepped on or sat upon, a person is at risk of thousands of stings and a potentially severe reaction. Children may be especially susceptible.

Attempting to exterminate fire ants can be dangerous as well, simply because of the proximity a person must get to the nest in order to apply an insecticide. A professional exterminator has been trained to use every possible precaution to minimize the risk of stings. He or she will approach the mound around sunset or shortly after, when fire ants are in their least active state.

An exterminator can pour an insecticide drench onto the fire ant mound itself to kill virtually all of the ants inside. The drench will penetrate chambers and tunnels, surrounding every ant in the colony to cause instant death. The exterminator will likely try to physically crush the nest with the pouring action as well.

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