Anyone who has unwittingly stepped on a red ant mound has painfully learned why they are called “fire ants” — and they are not to be played with.
Don’t let their size fool you. Fire ant bites pack a punch. A sting from their bite will more than catch your attention. And the venom they possess can cause allergic reactions that, for some people, are lethal.
Identifying Fire Ants
Solenopsis saevissima, also known as the red imported fire ant, is identified easily by its bright red or yellow coloring. At 5 millimeters long, they’re like walking little pincers. Their colonies are often easily found underneath a large mound of loose dirt. When the mound is disturbed, a river of red quickly flows from underneath.
Fire Ant Behavior
Worker ants are incredibly aggressive. When the colony is under threat hundreds of them will swarm within seconds. The grip of their mandibles is so strong that they can’t be easily shaken off. The result is a frantic human-versus-insect fight and in the end, it’s sometimes difficult to know exactly who won. During flooding rains, colonies are known to ball themselves up around the queen. This phenomenon is called rafting. One clump can consist of 100,000 ants, and they can survive for several days floating on the surface of the water.
Fire ant mounds can be found just about anywhere. A large colony can damage property, chew electrical wires, and damage HVAC systems. They’ve also been known to establish homes underneath sidewalks and foundations, which can lead to costly structural damage. The New Scientist recently published a study that attributed approximately $750 million in annual damages to agriculture from red ant infestations. The same study said that more than $5 billion is spent each year to battle infestations, including medical treatments.
Can Fire Ants Kill You?
Death is incredibly rare, but a person’s reaction to fire ant bites can vary depending on the person’s physiology and the severity of the attack. After the initial sting, reactions can range from a painful bump or skin rash to chest pains and loss of breath. Like bee stings, where some people develop deadly allergic reactions, the same can arise from the venom in fire ant bites. Acute reactions include severe chest pain, nausea, severe sweating, loss of breath, serious swelling, and slurred speech. In such cases, immediate medical attention is advised.
A fire ant infestation can keep you from enjoying your backyard or garden, or lead to more serious issues if left unattended. Dixon Pest Services specializes in fire ant treatments. For a no-obligation estimate, or to schedule a service appointment, contact us today!