THE RED IMPORTED FIRE ANT
(Solenopsis invicta) or RIFA
Although this ant is native to South America, it has become a huge problem right here in South Carolina.
The Fire Ant is aggressive and will attack anything that disturbs their nest. Most encounters with these ants come from inadvertently stepping onto one of their mounds. Many nests are difficult to see as they lie flush with the surrounding landscape. Nests can also be found in logs or timber. Large numbers of ants will swarm the feet and quickly crawl up the legs. The ant responds to pheromones, a chemical substance released to influence the behavior of other members causes the swarming response.
Fire Ants grab with their jaws and use their venomous-back stinger to attack the victim. The sting is very painful and can kill small animals by overloading their immune systems. They have also been known to invade buildings, therefore, controlling the population is essential.
A few statistics of the RIFA
- 86% consider RIFA a serious problem
- Children and youth have the highest sting rate.
- Approximately 0.5% of the population is hyper-sensitive to stings and could die if untreated.
- Stings often lead to secondary infections and severe scarring.
What to do if you are stung:
Refrain from scratching the infected area as this can lead to secondary infections. Clean the area with soap and water and apply an over-the-counter product made for insect bites. This should provide some relief. Elevate the site and apply ice to the affected area as this will help reduce swelling and some of the pain.