Fire ants, also called the thief ant and the red ant, are a specific specie of ants that are known to inflict severe pain on humans and pets when stung. These small ½ an inch creatures are easily distinguishable by their bright reddish brown complexion and thick dense size. Native to South America, this specie found its way to the western world, namely the United States in the 1940’s, and has developed a reputation of being one of the most dangerous species of ants known to man.
Fire ants, scientifically known as solenopsis invicta, can now be found in many of the southern states in the US, such as Georgia, Texas and Tennessee, but also around the world in warm humid countries. These ants can also be identified by the types of food they tend to burrow through, which are mostly protein rich. These include poultry and grains.
How to Identify Fire Ant Bites
Fire ant stings are easily identifiable as it happens. Whenever you are stung by a fire ant, you develop a swollen red spot with a blister on the area. This sting usually hurts for up to a week (depending on the person) before it heals. Other persons however may have an allergic reaction to the fire ant venom, which can cause severe pain, and may even be fatal.
Persons have been known to go into anaphylactic shock when this venom enters their system, causing them to have severe allergic reactions such as a swollen tongue, throat or even shortness of breath. A swollen tongue or throat can restrict the air capacity so that a person will be unable to breathe, resulting in their death. It is important that persons seek medical attention immediately if they have an allergic reaction to a fire ant bite, as this can be the determining factor between life or death.
Preventing Fire Ant Bites
The best way to combat fire ants is to not have them in the first place, which means active preventative measures must be taken. It is reported that once a fire ant mound is formed, the process of removing them permanently may be virtually unrealistic, as these small mounds can extend up to a 25 feet nest underground. If you already have fire ants, eradicating them may be an ongoing task, but these preventative measures will help to keep them at bay.
An effective method in the fight against fire ants is cleanliness and sanitation. This does not just apply to your kitchen, but also to your backyard, frontyard and gardens. It is important that you remove all sources of food from these fire ants, such as ripe fruits that fall on the ground and high piles of leaves and lawn grass. With nothing to feed on, your home will no longer be a suitable place for the fire ants to live because they are unable to find food. It’s also important to ensure that your home is kept in a cleanly manner, as the smallest amount of crumbs can cause a fire ant infestation. For added preventative measures, scents like peppermint and bay leaves can deter fire ants from entering your home in the first place, so a peppermint plant or bay leaves at entryways can significantly reduce your fire ant issue.
Another effective method of getting rid of these pests are to search for and destroy fire ant mounds, however be very careful when doing this, as these ants will attack in multitudes of this is not done properly. An effective way of destroying a fire ant mound is to pour boiling water into the mound. This is very effective because not only does it destroy the worker ants, but it also destroys the queen.
Treating Fire Ant Bites
Methods of treating fire ant bites range from natural home remedies to medical prescriptions, depending on the severity of the reaction in the person. For those who have an allergic reaction, it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible, but for those who experience regular symptoms such as redness, swelling and itching, here are some remedies that have been proven to work.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – This well known household tool neutralizes the alkaloid properties of the venom with its acidity, not to mention that it sucks the venom out of the body. To use as an effective remedy, apply raw apple cider vinegar on the wound with a cotton ball or cloth. Wash this off after ½ an hour, and if the symptoms persist, re-apply a second layer. The antiseptic properties helps to prevent inflammation and reduces the risk of the wound becoming infected.
- Witch Hazel – Most commonly known for its ability to tone skin evenly in the beauty industry, this astringent also helps to treat fire ant bites by providing a soothing relief for the itching and irritation associated with the symptoms. To use, apply a small amount on a cotton ball or cloth and apply to the wound. Re-apply as needed to soothe the symptoms.
- Honey – This household staple has been used for centuries in industries ranging from beauty to culinary fields, but its lesser known properties are as an effective home remedy for many illnesses. Honey has been proven to provide relief from the symptoms of irritability and itching associated with fire ant bites. To use as a remedy, simply apply a layer of honey over the wound and leave it on for 15 – 20 minutes, then wash it off. The thickness of the honey also provides an added benefit of shielding the wound from further infections because of its thickness.
- Hydrocortisone Cream – Doctors recommend hydrocortisone cream as a medical relief for fire ant bites because of its properties that help to effectively reduce itching and swelling. Simply apply a thin layer of hydrocortisone cream over the wound and you’ll stop itching in no time.
While fire ants have become the new unfriendly neighbour, it’s important to note that preventing them from entering your home in the first place is the best way to keep them out. Never forget to cover up when going outside in thick socks so as to prevent a fire ant bite.