Fire Ants: Learn about their Bites, and how to Prevent Them


Technology - Insects We Repel - Ants

There are more than 4,500 scientifically categorized species of ants—and it’s estimated that over 10,000 additional species exist. Common in tropical and temperate regions around the world, ants claim the largest populations in rainforests. In terms of numbers and territory, ants—which are related to wasps and bees—are one of the most widespread species on Earth. Most ant species that live in the United States prove merely annoying to people. However, some species bite, and fire ants sting—which causes a severe burning sensation; hence, the species’ name.

There are now four species of fire ants living in the United States. Two are considered native, and two were imported, unintentionally, from South America during the early 1900s. Very aggressive, the red imported fire ant has spread throughout the southeastern regions of the United States and Puerto Rico. It's no secret (because we tell people this all the time), one of the best ways to avoid fire ant bites is by wearing Insect Shield permethrin treated clothing combined with a topical repellent like Deet.

Some people show more sensitivity to fire ant stings, and can develop severe symptoms ranging from chest pains, nausea and dizziness to shock, and in rare cases, coma. When a person is stung by either species of the imported fire ants, the sting causes a white pustule to appear after 24-48 hours. These pustules can become infected and cause scarring. Fire ant stings rarely prove fatal.

Fire ants bite (to take hold) before they sting, so sometimes—if a person is quick enough—the ant can be brushed off before it stings. One fire ant can sting repeatedly.

Fire ant colonies typically begin below the surface of the ground, with a mound forming over the nest within about 6 months. But fire ant nesting sites also include dark, moist locations such as rotten logs, the underside of sidewalks or the walls of buildings. Fire ants pose the greatest risk when found in yards, school grounds, parks and homes. They are more likely to invade homes during rainy seasons and floods.

The spread of imported fire ants in the United States continues. Colonies have been found as far west as California and as far north as Kansas.

The University of Minnesota’s website offers detailed information on fire ants, as well as a map of fire ant distribution in the United States.