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Do fire ants bite?

Chances are if you don’t have one of your own, you’ve at least heard some nasty stories about fire ants. They may be small, but at less than ⅕ inch in length, they can cause a great deal of pain. Many species of ant are fairly harmless, but what about fire ants? Do fire ants bite? It turns out, yes they do, and they will when the situation demands it.

Southern California fire ant populations have been on the rise since the introduction of the pest to the state in 1998. With more and more ants surfacing, these biting insects pose a threat to SoCal home and business owners in cities such as Anaheim, Riverside, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

If you have spotted fire ants or other pests around your home, contact your local Western Exterminator office today.

Do fire ants bite or sting?

You might assume that “fire ant bites” and “fire ant stings” are just two different ways of referring to the same thing, but that's not the case. Fire ants actually bite and sting, sometimes several times in a row. These fiery pests will attach to human skin with the mandibles, causing a pinching sensation. However, this pain is often masked by the anguish of the soon-to-follow sting. The stinger is located on the rear of the fire ant and is connected to an internal sac of venom, thus causing the pain. If once isn’t enough, fire ants will sometimes move in a circular pattern, stinging multiple times.

Why do fire ants bite?

Fire ants

Like many of their insect counterparts, fire ants don’t necessarily seek out people to attack. Fire ants most often bite in defense of their nest. If they feel that the mound is being threatened, the fire ants will rush out at once and begin biting. They also bite and sting when hunting prey, but that’s a concern for other insects, not us.

What does a fire ant bite look like?

Fire ant bites on skin

The bite itself may cause some minor skin irritation, but it is the sting and associated venom that really leave a mark. The sting site often becomes a red, hot welt.

In the days following the bite and sting, a pustule forms on top of the welt. In the case that the fire ant is removed before venom is injected, pustules should not form.

Fire ant bite symptoms

Fire ant sting symptoms vary with each person. Most people experience a painful, burning sensation at the site of the sting. The blistering that follows can be very itchy, but you should attempt to avoid scratching it. Doing so could cause a secondary infection.

2-3 percent of people are allergic to fire ant venom, meaning their symptoms are much worse. One of the worst allergic reactions to fire ant stings is anaphylaxis. The following symptoms, as named by the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, are signs of anaphylaxis and can follow a fire ant sting:

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Hives or swelling

  • Throat tightening

  • Nausea

  • Dizziness

  • Low blood pressure

  • Vomiting

  • And more

How to treat fire ant bites

Fire ant bite

Treatment for fire ant bites, like the symptoms, will vary based on the severity of the reaction. The first step is to quickly remove the ants by rubbing or brushing them off. Because they “latch” on with their mandibles, they do not always come off easily. Over-the-counter antihistamines and pain relievers in addition to cold compresses can help with discomfort.

If you experience signs of a more severe allergic reaction, seek medical treatment immediately. Those with a severe fire ant allergy, living in an area where fire ants are present,  may want to consider carrying an auto-injectable epinephrine device on a regular basis.

How long do fire ant bites last?

As discussed in prior sections, the lasting effects are really from the sting and not the bite. The initial welt usually only lasts about 4-6 hours after the fire ant sting, whereas the pustule and blisters can last around a week. With more severe reactions, the side effects may last longer.

Western Exterminator can help with fire ant removal

Don’t take risks with fire ant colonies. Whether or not you have an allergy, it’s much safer to have the control experts at Western Exterminator take care of your fire ant problem. This is especially important if your area has recently experienced significant flooding. In flood waters, fire ants form giant floating masses to survive. With localized groupings of increased fire ant populations comes greater potential danger.

Leave the fire ant control to Western Exterminator. Our pest specialists have industry-leading training and expertise in handling and eradicating this vicious pest. Contact us today to have one of our pest specialists come out to your property for an inspection.

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