Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fire Ants in the Pants

There are no shortages of flora and fauna in southern Florida that are going to bite you, scratch you, sting you, stick you or eat you. Next to mosquitoes, fire ants are the most likely of potentially unpleasant encounters for people. Luckily, fire ant mounds are fairly easy to notice, avoid and keep under control in areas that people frequent.

We get them from time-to-time in the yard. Usually, we spot the mound while it’s still small and treat to get rid of them. Left unchecked the mounds can get to several square feet of ground surface with entrances to the colony throughout the mound. Stepping into a fire ant mound of any size is not likely to be pleasant. The little buggers are going to come after you.

Whether it is a squad of these six-legged soldiers that make your flesh a battlefield or a whole regiment, they are going to make you suffer. Fire ants move up a person’s body until they find bare flesh. Then the fire ant lieutenant sends out the command to open fire.

If you’re wearing sandals then you will feel the sting of battle very soon. If not, then they will continue to move up your legs until they clear the tops of your socks. You will start to feel stings simultaneously around your knees. When fire ants first sting they are not as painful as their name implies.

The bad part, though, is that the stings might not be noticed until many of the ants have already stung you once or twice. Fire ants take hold of your skin with their mandibles and sting from their abdomen like their wasp cousins. That is why it is common to find two or three sting welts close together. They hang on and just keep jabbing.

On one recent occasion, I took the dogs outside after dark wearing only flip-flops. This type of footwear is not advisable near known colonies of fire ants. However, I was going to stay on the driveway and did not expect to disturb any fire ants. If there is an active mound on the yard then we usually know about where it might be.

On this particular day I must have got in the way of a foraging party that was making its way across the driveway. A squad of the little soldiers wounded my right foot multiple times before I sensed their attack. I had about twelve stings on my toes and on the top of my foot near my toes.

Fire ant stings itch more than they burn. The worse thing that you can do is to scratch them. Breaking the skin by scratching could result in an infection. Scratching also intensifies the itching exponentially.

The initial welt formed by the fire ant sting will form into a pustule that looks much like a white-head pimple. It itches horribly. If you have ever suffered a mosquito bite on one of your knuckles then you have vague idea of what a fire ant sting on the toe is like. Just multiply the agony times ten or more.

In my opinion, the best treatment for the profuse itching is an over-the-counter topical analgesic. However, if the pustule gets broken open, rubbing alcohol will help to ward off infection and dry the pustule before applying the analgesic.

Though, most of us don’t readily admit it, we all have more than enough stupid on hand to get us into trouble from time-to-time. A few days after the fire ant attack to my toes, I took the dogs out, again, wearing only flip flops. To make the situation even worse, I had succumbed to the itching of the stings and scratched to the point of causing some infection just above my toes.

I was pretty confident that the infection was going heal without a visit to the doctor. However, I was outside again with only flip flops on my feet. The rest of this story might seem obvious at this point but I was oozing with stupid on that day.

I had found a small fire ant mound near the air conditioner the other day and treated it. A common practice to determine if a fire any mound is live is to drag your foot across the top of it, scraping the loose dirt off of it. If it’s live then the soldiers are going to come to the surface madder than honey bees protecting their hive. All you need to do is step away quickly to avoid being attacked.

Remember now, I was wearing flip flops. Oh, and yes, I scraped the mound with my foot that had been ravaged a few days before by fire ants. I was spilling stupid all over the place.

I hit the mound with the sole me flip flop and, seeing that it was still live, I moved away quickly. Thinking that I had out-maneuvered the little soldiers, I was standing on the driveway watching the dogs when I felt folly of my erroneous assumption. At least another platoon must have managed to hang on to my flip flop and were now, on signal from the platoon leader no doubt, exercising an effective offensive on my foot and toes.

You will remember that I said that I had a scratch-induced infection? These little guys found it and stung me over and over on that infected flesh. A trip to the doctor seemed inevitable now.

With this being the information age and all, I often seek alternative information before I make a run into the doctor. My way of thinking was that if red lines started forming up the line of a vein in my foot then I’d waste no time in getting the doctor. However, if I could find a remedy online that was worth trying, my thanks would go out to Sergey and Larry rather than the doctor.

It just doesn’t seem likely that, out 391 million possibilities that Google can put in front of me in less than a minute, that Sergey and Larry would give me the most stupid solution out there. How wrong that I was. My search was a homerun for some dumbass that has no business talking to other people, much less posting “information” on the internet.

I found How to Treat a Fire Ant Sting. First of all, the title is bogus by reference to stings in the singular. One single fire ant sting is a rarity. These guys attack in armies.

Next, it offers two steps in Dealing with Fire Ants. First, step away from the mound. Now this might not seem obvious to someone who has never had the misfortune of stepping on a fire ant mound. However, I assure you that, experienced or not, you are going to step off of the fire ant the moment that you realize that your error. Nobody needs to tell you that. I couldn’t help but wonder if this half-wit thought that I was still standing in the middle of the fire ant mound while I reading his very limited wisdom on my smart phone.

The next instruction is to that you should pick the fire ants off one at time. Oh yeah! I can guarantee that, if you’re suffering a regimental fire ant attack then you’re going to knock those buggers off with as few sweeps of your hands as possible. You might pick off wood ticks but you had better wipe off fire ants very quickly.

Remember, north to a fire ant is up your pant leg. It will give a whole new meaning to the childhood colloquialism of Ants in Your Pants. That brings us to the next instruction from this idiot.  If there is a chance that fire ants got into your clothing, remove them immediately. Duh?

This happened to me once while I was running a gas-powered weed trimmer in the yard. By the time that I realized that they were there, those soldiers were high enough up my leg to claim the jewels. I didn’t care who might be offended by the sight of a half naked old man in my back yard. Everything from the waist down was off and was caste aside as I launched my counter-offensive.

I could not imagine going to the doctor with a part of my gender specific anatomy swollen beyond recognition.  I’d be sitting there in the exam room while the nurse took my vitals and then she would ask, “And what are we seeing you for today?” Try explaining that one without wearing a crimson face.

Then there would be the itching. Every guy has to scratch once in awhile but with the intensity of itch that fire stings cause… It would be like perpetual masturbation….but without a climax.

This is one of the best of the stupid instructions in the internet article. Do not slap the fire ants as this might agitate them. How ridiculous is that? You just walked all over their home. How can you “agitate” them more than you already have? They are already, willing to die for the survival of the colony, livid with you.

Imagine if Godzilla came tromping around in your neighborhood. You’re not going wait for him to slap you into agitation. You’re going to take that sucker out with a couple of RPGs into his vitals before he can even get to your next-door neighbor’s house.

For Treatment of Fire Ant Stings, which isn’t the same as Dealing with Fire Ant Stings in this article, the first step is to hold the affected area high to avoid swelling. Now I don’t know how well this ding-a-ling was listening when he went through Fire Ants 101 but he missed a couple of important points. Fire ants live in the ground and the most likely affected areas are, therefore, the person’s feet and legs.

Are you going to walk home on your hands to avoid swelling in your feet and legs? About the only way that you’re going to get stings from fire ants above your waist is if you and you intimate partner are foolish enough to get naked and do the horizontal mambo in the near vicinity of a fire ant mound. That is certain to be a screwing that neither of you will ever forget.

It’s pretty much guaranteed that those ants would heat up your foreplay like never before. Then it will you sitting in the exam room when the nurse asks, “And what are seeing you for today?”

You might as well go to the doctor together. Maybe you can a twofer discount and then only one of you will have answer sheepishly, “Well… we were making bugaloo on a fire ant mound when all of the sudden they started coming. They just kept on coming and coming until we were fire ant hot all over.”


  1. Hilarious - you are a glutton for punishment!

    I've discovered something that takes the itch out of ordinary itchy bites; dip a cloth in very very hot water - almost boiling, and as hot as you can bear, then hold the cloth on the bite. Be careful not to burn the skin of course! It works like magic.

    But for fire ants, I'm not sure. Especially when you're on your 7th platoon attack!

    1. HI Jennifer!
      Good to see you on my blog.
      I haven't heard the hot water technique. It's worth a try, though, as it may be the only thing available sometimes.
      I've heard of holding an onion slice on a single insect sting but when you suffered an onslaught of six-legged stinging Lilliputians it might take more than a slice.
      Thank you for the read and comments.