Bug Blog

A Swarm Of Southern Fire Ants Killed An Infant Child

Arizona is home to a large number of fierce and potentially harmful arthropods, such as scorpions, tarantula-hawk wasps, harvester ants, Africanized honey bees and black widow spiders. In addition to these multi-legged creatures, fire ants also pose a health risk to humans in the state. Three native fire ants can be found in Arizona, but invasive fire ants are always expanding their territory in the southern states. The most well known invasive fire ant species in the US, the red-imported fire ant, has been found in Arizona in the past, but luckily, all colonies of the invasive fire ants were eradicated in the state by officials with the Arizona Department of Agriculture some years ago. However, Arizona is sandwiched in between two states where red imported fire ant colonies can be found, and keeping these invasive pests out of Arizona has required consistent monitoring over the years.

Some sources claim that red imported fire ants have appeared in Yuma on occasion. An article published in June of this year claimed that fire ant colonies had once again been found in Arizona, but other reputable sources state the Arizona is currently free of the invasive ant pests. While red imported fire ants are well known for inflicting numerous painful stings that sometimes result in fatal anaphylactic reactions, the native southern fire ant species is by no means harmless to humans. Fire ants became a major concern to Arizonans years ago when a baby was attacked and killed by the venomous ants.

Back in 2003, a 3 month old baby in Phoenix had been napping when she was stung by hundreds of fire ants, which tragically resulted in the infant’s death. Initially, it was assumed that the baby had been killed by red imported fire ants, but this turned out not to be the case. The baby was actually attacked and killed by native southern fire ants, which perplexed entomologists and pest control professionals, as deadly reactions almost never result from southern fire ant envenomations. In fact, southern fire ants rarely swarm in such an aggressive manner, especially when they are not provoked. The southern fire ant is the most widely distributed fire ant species in Arizona, and they often construct nests in watered lawns that resemble dirt mounds or craters. Southern fire ants can also be found in cracks cement and they have been documented as nesting within indoor wall-voids, especially near kitchens where food is readily accessible.

Have you ever spotted fire ant nests within your yard?