The recent hot weather and brilliant blue skies make outdoor activities a great choice for those who love nature. While enjoying the great outdoor environments, if you see such a heap of red soil on the roadside, in the park or on the hillside, you should never kick nor touch it, and should immediately walk far, far away from it. Because it might be the Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA), one of the most dangerous ants that can deliver painful and deadly bites.
Red fire ants (solenopsis invicta) bite repeatedly when their nests are disturbed. Repeated bites from a swarm could lead to chest pains, nausea, shock or, in extremely rare cases, coma and even death.
Guangdong recently reported a critically ill case from red fire ants. On the evening of June 3rd, Mr. Zhen from Jiangmen was taking a walk in the park with his friend. All of a sudden, Zhen felt severe pain on his feet, just like being burned with fire. He then noticed a few red fire ants were crawling all over his feet.
Zhen shook off the ants quickly, but his feet had already become red and swollen with skin blisters. Soon after that, he suffered from breathing difficulties, fell to the ground, and was taken to the hospital by an ambulance. According to the doctor, Zhen later experienced red rash all over his body, indicating allergic reaction. After further treatment, Zhen was discharged from the hospital later that same night.
What is a red fire ant?
Red fire ants, which are native to South America, have been listed as one of China's top 100 destructive invasive species. They were first spotted in China's Taiwan many years ago, and are thought to have arrived via cargo containers and soil used for ballast in ships. They later arrived on the mainland via ships that docked at ports in the coastal province of Guangdong, posing a threat to public health.
The small, fast-moving insects are no different to other ants in appearance. They bite their victims repeatedly which causes severe pain and skin blisters, and can even cause unconsciousness in people who are particularly susceptible to the venom. On rare occasions, red fire ant bites can cause severe acute allergic reaction which can be fatal.
Southern China, including Guangdong, Hunan, Guangxi and Hainan, is experiencing an infestation of these highly territorial, aggressive and toxic species. The ants that can destroy habitats are predominantly found in farmlands, wastelands, green belts, roadsides, orchards, parks and dykes.
What if I am bitten by red fire ants?
Experts have advised residents to take all reasonable precautions to protect themselves from being bitten by insects, especially ants. It is the formic acid by ants that is venomous, so if you are bitten by ants, you can take the following steps:
① Clean the wound with soapy water as soon as possible to relieve the symptoms;
② Disinfect the wound with iodine;
③ If you feel pain or discomfort, go to see a doctor immediately.
In addition, ants spread pathogens during their movements, including pathogenic bacteria that cause intestinal diseases. Ants commonly seen in houses include monomorium pharaonis, Pheidole rhombinoda, Pheidole indica, Tetramorium caespitum and Iridmyrmex anceps Roger, while red fire ants are rarely seen indoors.
(Photo: Wang Huihui)
What can we do when there are ants at home?
① Keep the house clean and starve the ants by keeping all their favorite foods such as sugar, syrup and honey in sealed containers. Block all the gaps in the house to flush the ants out of their hiding places.
② Deal with the nest to get rid of ants fundamentally. Find out where the nest is, and then slowly pour hot water or strong lye into it after the ants go back into it at dusk;
③ Use pesticide to spray the ant nest or place poison bait around the nest. Worker ants will carry the bait into the nest, which will kill all other ants and larvae in it.
Author | Monica
Editor | Jerry