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What's Up With All the Fire Ants?

The rainy pattern has brought a painful pest: fire ants.

NBC 5 News

The recent rain has been a welcome sight following a drought-stricken summer. However, with the rain comes trouble of its own.

Of course, flooding was the major headline two weeks ago, but now we're dealing with some unwanted pests due to the recent downpours. NBC 5's Alanna Quillen did a recent story highlighting the outbreak of mosquitos.

There's another unwelcome pest that we're dealing with...FIRE ANTS! Based on all the ant mounds that have popped up, they've become a major nuisance across many North Texas yards.

Here's one on the NBC 5 grounds.

Fire ant mound on NBC 5 grounds.

So why are we seeing these gigantic ant piles sprouting all around? It's quite simple really. When heavy rain floods their underground tunnels, they have to build upward. And they are efficient builders! These ant mounds can extend several inches in diameter and height.

Of course, what makes fire ants such a pest is their small, painful bite. Most of us know from experience that those little suckers hurt! They can strike quickly and in numbers, leaving a small, precise and painful bite. Most fire ants only bite once, leaving a small red circle. But the fact that multiple fire ants can quickly crawl up your leg or arm, they can leave their mark(s) fast.

These bites are painful because the ant injects a small amount of venom. On very rare occasions, a swarm of fire ant bites could be severe enough to be life-threatening. Usually, people know whether or not they are allergic to them ahead of time and some even carry an EpiPen as a precaution. Always keep an eye on children for signs of a severe reaction including nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing, and dizziness and seek medical attention right away if an extreme reaction occurs.

Otherwise, pain near the bite and localized swelling can be expected. Treatment of ant bites includes washing the bite with soap/water, an ice compress on top of any swelling, taking an antihistamine (Benadryl), applying a topical hydrocortisone cream, or even certain essential oils. Popping the blister from an ant bite is not advised. It can result in a scar or infection.

Insect repellant is the best defense when working or playing outside should you stumble upon any fire ants. Be advised that stomping the ant mound to try and kill them is not recommended. You will likely regret this and get several bites in the process.

You may resort to ant bait to kill the colony. Be careful not to get too close to the mounds when applying, or you might opt for a professional to tackle the problem. They are certainly keeping plenty busy. 

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