Fire Hazards: How to Avoid Fire Ant Bites
Fire ant bites are painful and can be dangerous, but they are usually easy to avoid. If you do get bitten by a fire ant, watch for signs of an allergic reaction and seek medical help if your symptoms are severe.
Where Do They Live?
Although there are some naturally occurring types of fire ants in the United States, the most common culprit in stings is the red imported fire ant. This species is firmly established in the Southeast, and its populations are expanding to the west and north as well.
In regions where fire ants occur, they can be found almost anywhere. They live in large mounds of loose dirt, which they can establish in yards, wooded areas and parks. Fire ants are known to feed on fly larvae found in animal feces, so dog-walking areas or homes with pets may be at a higher risk if not cleaned properly.
How Do You Avoid Them?
The best way to avoid being stung by a fire ant is to stay well away from any fire ant mounts. You can tell fire ant mounts apart from most other ant hills because there is no opening that acts as a doorway, and the ants appear to swarm all over the hill. If you find a fire ant mound, keep your distance. If it is a place with a lot of foot traffic, consider flagging the mound if you can do so safely. Contact an exterminator if it is in your yard, or let the property owners know. If the mound is accidentally disturbed, leave the area immediately; the ants generally become more aggressive to protect their home.
If you plan to hike or walk in an area where fire ants are common, cover your legs and feet; ants cannot bite through most clothing. Avoid sandals or shoes without socks, and consider tucking your pant legs into your socks so that the ants cannot get next to your skin. If you see a fire ant on your skin or clothing, brush it away immediately. Many fire ant bites occur when people pick up objects from the ground, so check for ants in the area before grabbing anything. Although insect repellents are effective against many biting insects, they have little to no effect on fire ants.
Fire ants do not drown easily, and there have been cases where a fire ant nest has been found floating on water. Bites from ants in water are rare, but they can still occur. Get out of the water if you come across a large number of ants floating in it.
Fire ants are a common sight in certain regions, but their bites and stings are painful and can even be deadly. Many people are allergic to fire ant venom, and the ants may swarm and cause many bites in a short period. With a little diligence, you can avoid most fire ant stings.