Creepy Crawly | Fire Ants
Fire ants are dangerous, imported pests that could spread to large areas of Australia. Fire ants could severely damage the environment, our outdoor lifestyle, and the agriculture and tourism industries.
Fire ants are a category 1 restricted pest under the Biosecurity Act 2014
Native to South America, fire ants are red-brown to black in colour, and grow up to .6 cm in length. They build nests or mounds about 1 foot high, usually in grassy areas like lawns and pastures. Unlike most anthills, fire ant nests don’t have just one entrance. The ants crawl all over the hill. Fire ants can even form nests on water and float them to dry locations.
Fire ants are very aggressive when their nest is disturbed. They will swarm a perceived intruder, racing up vertical surfaces (such as legs), anchor themselves by biting to hold the skin stable, and then sting repeatedly.
To identify fire ant stings, look for groups of swollen red spots that develop a blister on the top. Stings hurt, itch, and last up to a week and may cause an allergic reaction.
Symptoms develop quickly after exposure. It’s critical to get emergency medical treatment if you experience signs of an allergic reaction to a fire ant sting such as
- sudden difficulty breathing
- difficulty swallowing
Treat mild sting reactions by washing the affected area with soap and water and covering it with a bandage. Applying ice can reduce the pain.
The best way to avoid fire ant stings is to stay away from fire ants. If you see a nest, resist the temptation to disturb it. Wear shoes and socks when working and playing outside. If you are attacked by fire ants, move away from the nest and brush the ants off with a cloth or while wearing gloves so they can’t sting your hands.
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