Fire Ants Are Beneficial Insects
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.
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.
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!