The Painful Bite of a Fire Ant

No ant is fun to have around but for the most part, ants can typically be pretty harmless. But if there is one ant you don’t want to come in contact with, it’s the Red Imported Fire Ant.

fire ant
fire antThe fire ant originated in South America but were introduced to the U.S. between 1933 and 1945. Today they infest all of the southern states from Florida to Texas.

All fire ant colonies should be avoided. They have the potential to deliver many painful stings as they provide protection for their colony. When a fire ant stings, they must first grab the skin with their jaw for leverage, then curl their abdomen to insert the stinger. The venom causes a burning sensation and can be extremely dangerous to certain people, causing serious allergic reactions.

Symptoms of a Fire Ant Bite:

  • A painful raised bump that becomes a pus-filled blister in 6-24 hours and remains for up to 10 days
  • Skin at the bite site that dies and leaves a scar or bump
  • A toxic reaction when there may have been 20 or more stings
  • Redness and swelling extending beyond the sting site

Home treatment can help relieve pain and prevent infection.

Contact the experts at Massey Services for a free inspection and recommendations on a Pest Prevention program that’s right for you.
fire ant

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Fire Ants Were Transported by Spanish Ships

tropical fire ants

Photo by Stephen Ausmus

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), invasive ants cost billions of dollars annually in control, damage repair and medical care. A recent genetic study revealed that tropical fire ants were transported by Spanish ships from Acapulco, Mexico, across the Pacific Ocean to the Philippines, where they were then transported to other parts of the world.

Researchers at the the Agricultural Research Service’s Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology (CMAVE) in Gainesville, Florida; the University of Vermont; and the University of Illinois used genetic markers to retrace the history of the tropical fire ant (Solenopsis geminate), which was a native of Central America and parts of South America. They also studied the trading patterns of Spanish vessels during the 16th century.

CMAVE entomologist DeWayne Shoemaker, whose earlier research reconstructed the invasion history of the red imported fire ant said, “We theorized that tropical fire ants were likely moved around by people and that the early trade routes most likely provided that transportation. Sure enough, when we started looking at the Spanish galley trade routes, the movement of the ants, inferred from genetics, mirrored the historic trade route.”

According to Shoemaker, early ships used soil as ballast to stabilize the ship. When the soil was removed to make room for cargo, it likely contained ant colonies.

Knowing the history and travel patterns of insects can help in in determining the best way to prevent them from invading other places.

The full story “Genetic Detective Work on Invasive Ants” was published in the December 2015 issue of AgResearch magazine.

Insects and Their Bites

As summer quickly approaches, pests will begin multiplying, which means a higher likelihood to experience bug bites. Some bites can hardly be noticed, but there are others that can cause such severity they become life threatening.

Here are a few bugs that you should be aware of this summer and try to prevent from becoming victim to their bites:

  • Mosquitoes:  Female mosquitoes feed on blood to help their eggs develop into offspring.  When mosquitoes bite, they release saliva into the bite area. Allergic mosquito-abatementreactions to the saliva cause the itchy bumps and swollen hives some people get after being bitten.  In addition to their bites, mosquitoes are also well-known for carrying diseases.  Mosquito-borne diseases currently of public health concern include St. Louis encephalitis, eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile virus encephalitis, and dengue.
  • Red Imported Fire Ant:  The Red Imported Fire Ant was first introduced from Brazil into either Mobile, AL or Pensacola, FL between 1933-1945.  They now fireantinfest Puerto Rico and all or parts of the southern states and western states from Maryland to southern California.  The sting of this ant possesses an alkaloid venom, which is responsible for both the pain and the white pustules that appear approximately one day after the sting occurred.  The remainder of the venom contains an aqueous solution of proteins, peptides, and other small molecules that produce the allergic reaction in hypersensitive individuals.
  • Fleas:  The cat flea is the most important flea species in the United States and attacks both cats and dogs. Adults are 1/16″ long and are usually found on the host. The 16flea_enlflea inserts its mouthparts in the skin, injects saliva and sucks blood. The bite leaves a red spot on the skin. The saliva is irritating to the host, causing dermatitis and hair loss in allergic animals.  Fleas can also transmit tapeworm.
  • Ticks:  Ticks are not insects and are closely related to the spider. Ticks are known to transmit serious diseases to animals and 17tick_enlhumans even though humans are not the preferred host. They are known to be almost as important as mosquitoes in terms of public health importance.  Diseases ticks are known to carry are Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and relapsing fever.

There are many other pests to be aware of as the warm weather arrives.  Always be cautious around bugs to help protect yourself from painful bites and stings this summer!

Invasive Pests Affecting Us

In the most recent issue of Pest Control Technology (PCT) magazine, a report on the most wanted invasive pests was included. The unofficial definition of an invasive species is a species that does not naturally occur in a specific area and whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.

According to a 2004 Cornell University report, more than 4,500 foreign arthropod species reside in the continental U.S. and Hawaii, and the number is rising. Invasive plants, animals, insects and organisms – approximately 50,000 species – cost the United States about $120 billion a year, said the report.

How do these invasive species enter? With the increased movement of people, equipment and commodities around the world, exotic pests challenge our borders daily. Climate typically determines whether invasives can survive once they get here, and with many coming from tropical locales like South Asia and the Caribbean, the hotter and more humid, the better. While Texas and the Gulf Coast get their share of pest introductions, South Florida is ground zero.

Invasive pests that fall on the “Most Wanted List” include the following:

  • Argentine Ant:  These ants have a range from Florida to California and can go as far north as North Carolina.  They are the #1 exotic pest ant in the U.S. and hail from South America.
  • Red Imported Fire Ant:  These ants with their painful sting were introduced into Alabama and Louisiana and hail from South America.  They now range from Florida to Texas and have spread as far north as southern Oklahoma, Arkansas, Virginia and Tennessee.
  • Formosan Subterranean Termites:  This voracious pest from China is showing up all over the southeastern U.S., north to North Carolina and west to San Antonio.
  • Asian Tiger Mosquito:  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control report this pest is established in 26 states.  They can cause serious illness, including Chikungunya fever, affecting parts of Africa, Asia, India and Italy since 2005.
  • Asian Lady Beetles:  These beetles were first found in Louisiana in 1988.  The beetle’s range has grown to include much of the U.S. and parts of Canada.  They become a serious pest when thousands seek out structural cracks and crevices in which to overwinter, finding their way indoors.

Fire Ants in Your Parking Lot Pose Threat to Patrons

Think Fire Ants are only an Outside Nuisance? Think Again!

Fire Ants on your grass, sidewalks, parking lots or anywhere on your property pose a real threat to your business. That’s because these are areas where patrons and their children traverse, making them ready targets for fire ants and their stinging bites.

Keep Fire Ants off Your Property

Keep Fire Ants off Your Property

Even worse, fire ants that set up homes in these places can easily enter your establishment through tiny cracks and gaps in your foundation or under door plates. From here they gain access behind baseboards and walls, eventually locating food items inside.

Stings from fire ants usually develop into a tight pustule that itches and burns. Sometimes, the sting site can become infected. And, persons allergic to bee and wasp stings are especially susceptible because they can experience anaphylactic shock from these tiny creatures.

With 2.5 million tons of living fire ants in the Southeast – your property and your customers can easily become a target.

What to do if you suspect you may have fire ants on your property?

  • Do not disturb any Fire Ant nests. Any disturbance may encourage the colony to move somewhere else and this can make eradication more difficult.
  • Make sure that materials infested with fire ants are not wheeled across your landscape, spreading an infestation.
  • Seal cracks and crevices where ants may come inside.
  • Employ a professional pest service that can eliminate ants and their nests and prevent future colonies from forming.

If you think you have an ant problem, or want to learn about Massey’s Commercial Pest Prevention, schedule a Free Inspection, or call us at 1-888-2MASSEY (262-7739).

Fire Ants: Avoiding the Sting

If you just moved down from “Up North” you might not be familiar with fire ants. But just about everyone else “down here” is. First, be careful where you stand. What appears to be a nice, fluffy mound of dirt can, in fact, be a nest of fire ants.

Prevent Fire Ants on your Property.

Prevent Fire Ants on your Property.

Secondly, what’s with the name? They’re named “Fire Ants” because the pain from hundreds of cumulative stings feels like your skin is being set on fire. Ouch! The stings from fire ants are quite annoying, each one usually developing into a tight pustule that itches and burns. Unlike a bee that loses its stinger, each fire ant worker can sting again and again until it is brushed away. Sometimes, the sting site can get infected, so treat each wound carefully with appropriate medications. Persons allergic to bee and wasp stings should carry doctor-prescribed medication in advance of being stung to prevent anaphylactic shock.

Winged female fire ants can fly into a yard and land anywhere on the ground to begin another nest. Within a month or two, colonies rapidly build to up to a quarter million ants or more per mound. That’s because each mound can harbor multiple queens that are all prolific egg layers. A well-known fire ant researcher estimates that there may be approximately 2.5 million tons of living fire ants in the Southeast! Areas of the yard where kids and pets roam should be regularly scouted and treated for fire ants.

Fire ants will often try and enter your home through tiny cracks and gaps in the foundation or under door plates to gain access behind baseboards and walls, eventually locating food items inside the home.

If you think you have an ant problem, or want to learn about Massey’s Pest Prevention, schedule a Free Inspection, or call us at 1-888-2MASSEY (262-7739).

Is Your Lawn Kid-Proof…And Pest Proof?

Nothing is more natural during the summer than kids playing outdoors. But there are a few common pests that can get in the way of that fun.Here are a few common pests that can be aggravations to you and your kids this summer:

  • Fire ants. These are the most dangerous ants you’ll find in your lawn. They deliver painful stings, which can cause serious allergic reactions, including anaphylactic shock, in some people. In addition to attacking people, fire ants can also sting your pets.  Be sure to teach your kids not to disturb fire ants or their mounds and have a professional take care of the problem.
  • Fleas. In our warm environment, fleas can develop from egg to adult in just 2 weeks. Plus, it’s possible for 10 adult fleas to produce over 250,000 offspring in just a month! While fleas are most often found on animals, they will also jump on humans for a blood meal. In addition to causing itching and discomfort, fleas have also been known to transmit diseases like plague, typhus and tapeworm.
  • Mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are more than a summer annoyance;they can also carry harmful diseases. This potential danger makes it important to effectively treat the areas where mosquitoes live and breed, including dense foliage and standing water. To help keep mosquitoes away, be sure to replace all standing water, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants if going out at dusk or dawn. If you can’t avoid being in mosquito-infested areas, use insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin.

Pests don’t have to spoil your family’s fun this summer. To keep them under control – guaranteed – contact Massey Services for a free,detailed pest inspection.

Take the Sting Out of Fire Ant Infestations

Fire ants are abundant in the Southeast, where the hot, dry soil and rainy seasons provide everything necessary for them to thrive. Fire ants often set up colonies right next to building structures, with mounds that can reach up to 24″ high. They often get inside your home to forage for food.

Unlike other nuisance insects though, fire ants can pose a hazard because of their painful stings. The venom injected during stinging can be extremely dangerous to certain people, causing serious allergic reactions,including anaphylactic shock. When you see sand mounds developing, contactMassey Services. We’ll provide a thorough, free inspection and a plan to keep fire ants, plus other pests, out of your home.