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Fire Ants Are Beneficial Insects

Updated on September 18, 2016
Cardisa profile image

Carolee is a passionate writer with a love for learning and teaching. She is a published author, poet, blogger, and content creator.

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Ants and I have a love hate relationship. I used to be so annoyed seeing these buggers all around and I used to hate them as much as I hate flies and roaches but not so any more. A few years ago when I was addicted to watching science and research programs I found out that research was done on the fire ants and they found a very interesting fact.

Since I discovered how important these ants and possibly every other ant was I changed my mind. They still annoy me as no one really wants to eat ants but I am not as grossed out as I used to be when I see them.

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What are fire ants?

Do you know big red ants that bite you and they take a piece of your flesh? What they actually do is bit you and then apply a sting, and then spray their venom. This produces an intense burning similar to being burnt by fire, hence the name. Not to frighten you but when a fire ant bites you it bleeds because they actually take a small piece of you with it.

The bites or stings are sometimes very venomous and can prove very dangerous. Some people may be allergic to their venom which may prove deadly, however, their venom mostly consist of antibacterial and antibiotic properties.


In Jamaica we call these ants "red ants" but they are also known as ginger ants. The fire ant is much bigger than other ants and they are reddish brown to bright red in color. They have a queen just like any other insect. They have the typical ant feature of three segments, six legs and a pair of antennae.

They usually build their nest in the earth and operate in colonies just like any other species of ants.

Source

Fire ants antibacterial properties

The information documented by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, Us National Library of Medicine has extensive papers on the research done on the venom of the fire ants.

In 1972 the Agricultural Research Service in association with the US Department of Agriculture, The Department of Entomology at the University of Georgia participated in a study to ascertain the effects of the fire ants venom on certain bacteria.

What the researchers did was add an alkaloid agent to the venom to reduce its toxic effect thus producing a synthetic agent known as solenopsin. Reducing the toxicity of the venom gave them the chance to test the rest of the properties of the venom to see their effect.

Tests were done using some of the most popular and dangerous bacteria such as:

  • Streptococcus salivarius - the bacteria that cause strep throat
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis - the bacteria that causes staph infections
  • Bacillus pulvifaciens - disease of immature bees
  • Salmonella typhimurium - the salmonella bacteria
  • Escherichia coli - the ecoli
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae - the one that causes pneumonia
  • Shigella flexneri - infections that cause diarrhea in humans

There were three batches of tests done on these bacteria. Each batch having a different strength. It was found that within 48 hours the higher concentration of the agent 99.9% of the bacterial cells were destroyed on most of the bacterial properties tested.

So next time you see a fire ant, don't kill it or you could be killing a very important insect. You never know when its venom will become useful to you.

As far as the venom being currently used in any products we use, I could not find any information on this but I will continue to research this. I do know that there are continuing studies on these little critters that leaves such a biting sting!

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    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      5 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Vinaya, I agree. Ants can be a nuisance but they have been proven to be one of the most useful insect around. I hope you find a way to control them...lol

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      5 years ago from Nepal

      I hate ants, all kinds, all types. They are eating my crops, vegetation, butter, sugar, even mangoes.

      But in a serious not, I did not know fire ants are useful. Thanks for sharing the information.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      5 years ago from Jamaica

      Hello Teaches123, by all means, please avoid them. If you are allergic they can prove toxic as well. No one wants to be stung by fire ants...lol

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      We avoid those domed ant hills when we see them around south Florida. They can be very painful to walk through. Good to hear that their sting may be useful, but am still going to consider them something to avoid. Well done!

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      5 years ago from Jamaica

      Hello Epbooks, we have a variety of red ants here as well. I am not allergic but I hate being bitten...lol

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Interesting hub. I'm not a fan of ants...or any bugs for that matter. But we have a variation of red ants here. Sometimes there are many of them! I don't think I'm allergic, but then again, I don't recall ever getting bit (or at least knowing that I did). Thanks for posting!

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      5 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi James, that was funny. I guess they felt like their territory had been invaded. They are very particular about their home. If you had placed the fish nearby they would have stripped that fish bare.

    • SubRon7 profile image

      James W. Nelson 

      5 years ago from eastern North Dakota

      Great hub, Carolee, and great movie too. I have always loved nature, birds, bugs, flowers, trees, weeds, etc. When I was maybe nine or ten, in our 4-acre pig pasture, there was a big anthill, about 18 inches across. I had heard of ants doing what they did to the frog in your video. So, one time I placed a fish (about 12 inches long) right beside the anthill, expecting that when I returned there would be nothing left but a skeleton.

      What a surprise I got. Instead of stripping the fish the ants abandoned that anthill that had been there forever. I guess the fish should have been placed several feet away...the ants "would" have found it!

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      5 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Ruby, I missed you. I promise I am going to be spending more time on Hubpages this time around. I needed a break but I am coming back! Thanks for stopping by.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Very interesting article. I remember when i moved to Texas, i was just standing in the yard when a swarm of red ants started biting my feet and legs, very painful. I, like the others commenting, had no idea they were useful medically. Thank's for the info.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      5 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Justin. Many people have no idea about this. Thanks for reading, Have a nice evening!

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 

      5 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Very interesting. I've always been fascinated by ants but had no idea they actually had such beneficial medicinal qualities. Thanks for sharing this. I shared this as well.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      5 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Pstraubie48. I know many people are allergic to these ants and some people go into seizures and even shock because of their bites. I hope you find a way to control them in your yard. I wouldn't want you to have to keep going to the emergency room.

      It was quite shocking to me to discover that ants in general were known to be the cleanest insects in terms of being germ free. Of course they pick up germs like any other insect but because of their antiseptic and antibacterial properties bacteria become neutralized when they spray the venom.

      Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      5 years ago from sunny Florida

      O, I would have never guessed that fire ants would be beneficial. This year, Cardisa, they are horrid. I am allergic to insect bites in general and fire ants in particular. I have 9 scars on my leg where they got into the leg of my shorts without me seeing them when I was weeding last summer. I had to go to the ER to be treated.

      I think they see me coming and shout out..."come on over here, fellas and gals, it is a buffet."

      I have been bitten so many times this summer it is hard to count. I hope that somehow that researhers and scientists find a way to use them and that they collect all of them from MY yard.

      Seriously I do hope that using them is something that becomes a common practice. Angels are on the way ps

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      5 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Billy, nice to see you. I have been keeping away from HP and it's good to see a friendly face. Thanks for stopping by.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      How very interesting. I had no idea of the beneficial effects of their venom. Thanks for the education.

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