Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fire Bites

This piece was written for my class as well, and is the last one until I get the most recent edited and finished. It is a non-fiction piece for kids ages 6-9, and my instructor thought that this one was so good that I could get it published. We'll see when we get to that part of the class.

Have you ever been outside playing, and gotten fire ant bites? Did you know that the fire ant doesn’t actually bite? They sting like bees. Then sting again. And sting again. Unlike bees, fire ants can sting over and over again.

Fire ants attack anything that threatens their nests, and they attack in large numbers. It is common for hundreds of ants to attack at the same time. Large numbers of the ants can crawl onto their prey, and it can be up to 10 seconds before they begin stinging. During that 10 seconds, hundreds of ants can crawl up your leg without you even knowing that they’re there! It is normal for people to receive several stings because of the large numbers of ants involved in an attack.

Fire ants use their mandibles or jaws to hold on to your skin, and then sting from their abdomen. They sting several times in a circular pattern around the point that their mandibles attached to your skin. With each sting the ant is injecting a toxic venom into your skin. Within 6-24 hours the sting will develop into a halo of deep red surrounding a blister. The area will itch while it is healing, but if the blister is broken it can develop into an infection. Typically the blister and red mark will heal in about a week, but a small scar might remain for about a month after the sting.
Fire ants live in large colonies in open areas often near moist areas. River banks, pond edges, watered lawns, and highway edges are ideal spots for fire ants to live. They typically feed on young plants, seeds, and sometimes crickets. These ants attack small animals often and can kill them. Fire ant nests are usually less than a square yard in size, and may have several openings that are used to find food or to attach potential enemies. Colonies can be founded by groups of queens or a single queen, but only one queen will survive. Within a year, the colony expands into thousands of ants.

It is recommended that you sweep the ants off of your skin the second that you feel the first pinch of your skin. The sweeping motion will help you remove as many ants as possible before they are able to actually sting you.

If you are unlucky enough to experience a sting from fire ants, apply a cold compress to help with the swelling and pain. Wash the area with soap and water, but leave the blister as it is so that you can prevent getting a further infection. One final thing you can try is putting Listerine mouthwash on the sting. Field & Stream magazine reported in 2003 that the mouthwash might stop the pain from the sting and prevent the blisters from forming.

It is painful to get stung by any insects while playing outside. So during the spring and summer this year, be careful to watch where you are playing!

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