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Playing With Fire… Ants

Playing With Fire… Ants published on 4 Comments on Playing With Fire… Ants

Once upon a time (a couple of years ago when I should have known better), I spotted a fire ant hill outside my dwelling.  There was a stick nearby.  I picked up the stick and began poking at the fire ant hill.

For those of you up North, fire ants are brownish red in color, they can build rather large, distinctive-looking hills containing millions of ants, and if they happen to end up on your skin, they will bite you for no reason other than that they can.  Their bites cause a burning sensation that is hard to ignore.  Hence the name “fire ant.”

It is thought that fire ants were accidentally introduced into the United States in the 1930s from South American soil used as ballast at the bottom of cargo ships through the port of Mobile, Alabama.*  Fire ants are mean little critters, they can easily grow out of control, and they are a constant pest in the southern and southwestern United States.

As I was poking away at the ant hill, hundreds of ants were swarming out to repair the damage I was making.  I was having fun.

Hah! I thought as I poked my stick around gleefully.  This makes up for that time many years ago when I was washing my car and, unbeknownst to me, hundreds of your brethren stung my foot and ankle so many times, they were swollen for days.  Take THAT, you evil little monsters!

While I was menacing the colony and laughing maniacally to myself, one of the little buggers was slowly crawling up my poking stick.  It reached my middle finger (Ironic, don’t you think?) and sunk its pincers into my skin.

“Ow!” I yelled.  I dropped my stick, brushed the offending ant off my hand, then broke out into a spontaneous “Get ‘Em Off Me” dance as I jumped away from the ant hill and quickly checked myself for any more.

Finally, convinced that I was free of them, I approached the ant hill one more time, kicked my shoe at it, then beat a hasty retreat back into my apartment before any of them could retaliate.

I put anti-sting cream on my wound and wrapped it in a bandaid.  It took a week to heal completely.

Fire ants:  1.  Suzanna:  0.

Dang fire ants.

*Reference:  Radcliffe’s IPM World Textbook, University of Minnesota


Fire ants are nasty. I had my share of bites being stationed down south. We would hit nests while digging fighting positions. In 1985 when I first was stationed at Ft. Polk, LA, I was on funneral detail for a month as my unit was the duty battalion. My squad leader was the sergeant in charge of the rifle squad which fired the 21 gun salute. I was in that squad. We had been told to be flexable and to do what we were told regardless of what we thought to know.
If anythng came up and we followed our orders, no one would know the different. We usually stayed in position until the ceremony was over, then in a smart military fashion, marched off out of view. On one occasion, after we fired our rounds, instead of staying through the ceremony we were ordered to face right and were promptly marched off out of view. Once we were hidden, my squad leader dropped to the ground, whipped off his trousers and started swatting ants off himself. During the ceremony, he had been standing over a fire ant nest. They had crawled up his pant legs and we chewing him up. The man never flinched, squirmed or batted an eyelid. What discipline.

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