My First Encounter With Fire Ants

On one of my first days of O-week we were having cheer battle practice, which generally includes marching across the grass and yelling different cheers as loudly as we could. Coming all the way from Maryland, I had never seen fire ants, orĀ Solenopsis spp., and in the middle of all the excitement didn’t notice that I had stepped in a giant fire ant mound.

Red Imported Fire Ant Mound. Source:

By the time I looked down at my foot it was already almost completely covered in fire ants! There were so many I could barely see my skin through the layer of ants. I immediately started brushing the ants off, but they had already started biting. The whole encounter was very brief yet very painful, with the stings leaving red dots all over my foot for at least a week.

One recent fact I learned about fire ants that ties in with this painful encounter is that the sting of a fire ant actually possesses venom with potent necrotoxic abilities. Before stinging the fire ants will attach to the skin by biting it with their mandibles. So when someone says they were bitten by fire ants they are actually being both bitten and subsequently stung. However, the venom in their sting was the main culprit behind the immediate and lasting pain during my first encounter with Rice’s fire ant population.

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