Fire Ants

Imported Red Fire Ants

Solenopsis wagneri
There are over 210 species of ants in Texas. Several are considered common lawn pests, but only one is considered a serious nuisance to humans-the Imported Red Fire Ant. Introduced in the 1930's, this ant has spread to infest 9 southeastern states including Texas. These ants deliver a painful sting that produces a red pustule that itches and burns. These stings are usually not serious except for the rare instance of serious allergy. Red Fire Ants build mounds that can reach 18 inches in height depending on the soil. Each mound may contain literally millions of ants that can move very quickly when the mound is disturbed. The good news is Red Fire Ants actually eat a lot of insects that are considered pest species. In urban areas fire ants feed on flea larvae, chinch bugs, cockroach eggs, chiggers, ticks and other pests.

How to Avoid
There is not much in the way of precaution to take until one becomes aware of the presence of Fire Ants and then moving away from them. Care should be taken with small children and newborn or confined pets, since their ability to escape attack are limited. Because Texas has a native fire ant species that is not a pest species, identification of the kind of fire ant present is important before treating an area with any chemical controls. Using the least toxic product is also strongly recommended.

What to Do
Fire Ant stings should be kept clean and intact to prevent secondary infections, topical analgesics can help the itching and burning that may persist for up to several days.

Bees and Wasps

Bee Swarm
Photo by Kay Ridenour
Bees are furry insects that usually live together in colonies or hives. They are commonly seen during the summer, wherever there are flowers, gardens, fields, and forests. Bees are the world's most important plant pollinators. Wasps are often confused with bees. They are not usually furry and many are predators. Wasps have un-barbed stingers that can be used again and again. Bees have barbed stingers which are left in the victim. After using it's stinger, a bee soon dies. Bees only use their stingers in self-defense, while wasps can use them repeatedly to obtain food.

How to Avoid
When eating outdoors, keep food covered, especially fruit and soft drinks. Should a bee or wasp fly near you, slowly raise your arms to protect your face and stand still or move slowly to escape.

What to Do
Try this home remedy: Mix one part bleach to nine parts water. Saturate a cloth with the solution and place it on the sting. If the stinger is still in, scape it out with a credit card or a piece of cardboard. Don't pull it out because it will release more venom. Some people have severe reactions including swelling, breathing difficulties, severe drop in blood pressure and shock. See a doctor immediately or call 911.