Ouch! I've Been Stung By a Fire Ant

Imported Fire Ants April 30, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF

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Fire ant stings on an infant's hand Pustules formed by fire ant stings

How Fire Ants Sting

Thousands of fire ants live in just one fire ant nest. If a mound is disturbed, hundreds of ants immediately rush out, climb on whatever disturbed them, including humans, and sting. There is some debate about what triggers the ants to sting at the same time instead of individually. Generally, it will take 10 to 20 seconds after climbing up on the victim for the stinging to begin.

Single worker ants can bite and sting several times. The worker attaches to the skin with its chewing mouth parts (mandibles) pulling the skin, pinching it, and raising it slightly. This causes a pricking sensation. Then the ant arches its back, doubling under its abdomen, and forces the stinger into the skin. After inflicting the first sting, it may remove the stinger and, rotating or pivoting the head, may sting several more times, leaving a circular pattern of sting sites.

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.