Many people will tell you that sustaining a medically threatening insect bite or sting is extremely rare, but the statistics tell a different story. Every year, at least 500,000 people visit the emergency room due to sustaining a bite or sting from a venomous insect species, and this figure is not taking spider bites and scorpion stings into account. These cases obviously vary in terms of severity, but .5 percent of these ER cases involve life threatening reactions to insect venom. Sadly, 40 people per year die in response to medical complications caused by insect bites or stings. In the southeastern United States, the red-imported fire ant is notorious for inflicting extremely painful and medically significant bites to humans. In fact, the insect species that is responsible for the greatest number of dangerous allergic reactions to insect venom is the red-imported fire ant, and this is the case in the entire southeast US.
For most venomous insect species of medical importance, it is not the toxicity of the venom itself that lands bite or sting victims in the hospital; rather, it is a severe allergic reaction to the venom that causes serious medical issues. In some cases, these allergic reactions can trigger anaphylactic shock, which is often deadly unless medical treatment is administered with immediacy. While the red-imported fire ant’s sting delivers potent venom that can cause potentially deadly allergic reactions, most medically important stings from this ant species see wounds develop secondary infections. Unfortunately, the red-imported fire ant has established a habitat in every area of Georgia, and what is even more unfortunate is that every resident of the state faces a 30 to 60 percent chance of sustaining a fire ant-inflicted injury within a span of one year. The probability of sustaining an injury from this ant is even higher in children and young adults. The red-imported fire ant both bites and stings. More specifically, this species will first bite in order to remain securely attached while it stabs its stinger into a person’s skin, often repeatedly. The red-imported fire ant cannot be fully eradicated from its non-native US habitat, so if you encounter a colony, run in the other direction.
Have you ever sustained a venomous ant sting?