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Friday, June 5, 2015

It’s that time of year again: the time when bugs come out once again to feed on humans in the heat of the summer.

One of the most terrifying insects is the fire ant, which is named after the burning sensation one feels when bitten by them.

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The insects give you a two for one deal: first, they bite you. Then, they sting you from the abdomen, leaving markings like the ones above for days afterwards.

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The fire ants congregate in massive underground colonies that consist of around 250,000 ants. Pictured above is an aluminum cast of one of these colonies.

Since the 1930s, fire ants have been rapidly spreading across the southern and western United States. Experts say they were mistakenly imported to Alabama around 1930, and quickly spread as an invasive species.

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Unlike most ants, fire ants don’t hibernate. Though the cold will kill 80-90% of a colony, this means that you can be attacked by fire ants at any time of year.

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The FDA says that fire ants account for more than $5 billion in medical costs paid every year. $750 million of this is spent on agricultural assets like livestock and crops.

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The ants are known for their ability to swarm animals that are often many times their size. They can also be deadly to humans, because they inject a small amount of venom called Solenopsin. If someone is allergic to this venom, they will likely die if they do not get medical care immediately.

So this summer, be on the lookout for fire ants, because they’re coming for us!

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