Sting Strategies: Red Imported Fire AntIf you have ever been stung by a Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA), you are familiar with its painful bite and sting combo from this astonishingly aggressive ant. The RIFA attacks by latching onto its prey with its four teeth, while twirling in a circle to deliver stings in rapid succession from an ever-ready stinger protruding from the tip of its gaster.
Red Imported Fire Ants may attack singly, but often descend in numbers, particularly if you have disturbed their nest. Ants use pheromones to communicate with each other, which launches a communal response and means that if you encounter one, you are likely to encounter many.
For those unfamiliar with this particularly unpleasant experience, here’s some helpful tips to keep in mind as you try to steer clear of the Red Imported Fire Ant:
- Avoid the nests. Steer clear of large dirt piles, usually several inches high and about a foot wide. They are symmetrical, and may be in the open lawn or in crevices around your home or office. Red Imported Fire Ants do not drill a hole at the top of their mounds, so you may not realize it’s an ant nest until it’s too late. If you notice a mound in your yard, call a professional – don’t poke at or disturb it.
- Seal cracks and crevices. Red Imported Fire Ants can enter your home through electrical systems, HVAC systems and internal cracks and crevices around your home’s structure. A good exclusion strategy can help keep RIFA’s outdoors.
- Wear the right gear. If it’s likely that you’ll encounter RIFA’s, wear appropriate footwear such as closed-toed shoes or rubber boots. Insect repellant can also discourage insects such as Red Imported Fire Ants from getting too close.
- Brush them off. If Red Imported Fire Ants launch an attack, remember that their bite is designed to keep them attached to you. Brush them off as quickly as possible with a cloth or handkerchief, hopefully before they have time to sting. Don’t try to use water – it will aggravate them and you won’t be able to shake them off.
- Understand the risks. While fire ants both bite and sting you, it’s the sting that delivers the pain and the pustule. The pain is immediate, and a pustule will develop in about a day. About 2% of the population will develop anaphylactic shock from the sting. Over-the-counter remedies may provide relief, but there is a risk of complications such as bacterial infections and several allergic reactions. Immediately apply first aid to the bites and then seek appropriate medical attention.