Saturday, August 27, 2011

Things that bite in the Night - the Fire Ant


“Coffee” is usually the first thought that I have upon waking. On this particular day I awoke, panicked, thinking “I need to get my wedding ring off my finger now”. I didn't know why but the band was cutting off circulation to my finger which had swollen to a light shade of grape. The ring itself looked like a hula hoop on a hippo. Butter, Vaseline, WD-40, there was no way I was squeezing out of it.

I found a red bump at the knuckle. It itched so my assumption was I had been bitten. I treated it with “after bite”. I put my hand in ice. I kept it elevated. I tried Benedryl. Nothing was working. The finger was turning a deeper shade of purple and aching like a thumb hit by a hammer. By 10 pm it was time to go to the ER.

In the ER the red bump had grown into a white-capped pustule and the doctor quickly identified what I should have guessed already. As I slept I was bitten by a single Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta). Fire Ants are native to South America but can be found throughout the southern U.S. Back in the 30’s they were inadvertently introduced by a cargo ship docked in Alabama.

They are mound builders that can establish multiple satellite colonies of hundreds of thousands of ants. They inject painful venom to both defend the colony and take down potential prey. In Florida, these ants stand accused of causing the population decline of the Southern Hognose Snake (Heterodon simus) and the Florida Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula floridanus) by consuming incubating eggs.

A White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fawn will freeze in place at the sight, sound or smell of danger. If they happen to do so in or around a Fire Ant mound, the ants will begin climbing up the animal and then bite in unison. The bites are not only painful but the itching and swelling can last for four days or more. This of course happens to people as well. Some experience anaphylaxis.

In the ER I was given a choice. Leave the wedding ring unscathed and hope the swelling subsides or cut the ring off to alleviate the pressure and save my finger.

“Cut it off! The ring not the finger”

They did. The swelling subsided and wife insisted I get the ring fixed immediately. 

2 comments:

  1. Glad they didn't attack your pants!

    ReplyDelete
  2. ahh - another story for another day

    ReplyDelete