When do Fire Ants Bite?
These red ants will sting humans who come across a nest. Fire ants sting in both defense and aggression. After securing themselves to their prey with their clamp-like jaws (mandibles), fire ants use their stinger to inject the victim with venom. A single fire ant that feels threatened can deliver multiple stings - attacking up to eight times and each bite will deliver a new injection of venom into the skin. The result is a burning sensation combined with red welts and pustules.
Are Fire Ant Bites Dangerous?
Red fire ants dwell in large numbers and react aggressively to combat threats to their colonies. The fire ant's sting can be painful to humans, producing a burning or stinging sensation - similar to being touched by a lit match. This sensation is the reason they are called "fire" ants. Stings first appear as raised red welts that are painful and itchy. Most people see this feeling fade after about 60 minutes. The bite/sting sites then become red bumps with white pustules. Redness, itching, and swelling in the area can continue for a few days. If no treatment is administered, the white pustules, which carry a risk of infection, can leave scars.
For some people, fire ant bites can be more serious. About 1 percent of people are allergic to the venom and can face a serious reaction which can be fatal if not treated immediately. Be sure to watch for symptoms such as shortness of breath, pain or swelling in other parts of the body, and faintness. See a physician immediately if any of these symptoms occur. Fire ants can swarm to attack small animals as well, and household pets have been injured and killed by colonies.
Treating Fire Ant Bites
Some relief from the itchy bites caused by red fire ants is provided by anti-itch cream or soaking in ice water. Potential first aid for fire ant bites includes over-the-counter products for itching or pain and cold compresses. If the victim of a fire ant sting experiences allergic symptoms, such as headaches, nausea or dizziness, or difficulty breathing, professional medical treatment should be sought immediately. In the event that fire ants are present on your property, it is advised that you contact a local pest control professional to remove the threat of future attacks.