Ecology Lesson for Grades 9-12
by Gerald Edmonds

Ants Attack Student

A ten-year old Main Street Elementary School student was hospitalized at Children's Hospital Monday after being stung numerous times by swarming red fire ants. The youngster, identified by hospital officials as Johnny B. Goode, was rushed by paramedics to the hospital where he is listed in stable condition.

The boy was attacked by an aggressive species of fire ant called the Red Imported Fire Ant, known by the initials RIFA. The ants apparently moved into their new hole only recently, most likely migrating from a neighboring plant nursery. Vector control officers investigating the attack found several more ant hills within the nursery grounds.

The school principal, Alvin Lee, said that the boy was investigating a recently created ant hill on the school grounds with classmates when the attack occurred. Students who witnessed the attack told Lee that Johnny was poking at the ants and their hill with a stick when the ants suddenly swarmed, stinging the youngster on the hands and arms.

Paramedic James Page, who treated Goode at the scene, alerted county vector control agents and State University entomologist Tracy Chapman because of the unusual nature of the attack. Chapman confirmed that the ants in question are the Red Imported Fire Ants. This particular species is extremely aggressive when disturbed. They had not been previously detected in this area according to Chapman and the vector control agents.

Local officials expressed concern for the apparent infestation of RIFA as this species has caused damage to crops and equipment and is responsible for deaths of small animals and people who unwittingly disturbed the ant hills.

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The Imported Red Fire Ant

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Stings from the Red Imported Fire Ant

Photos are used by permission of

Dr. B. M. Drees
Texas Fire Ant Project Coordinator

Texas A&M University

Next Step

In this activity, you will assume the role of either a toxicologist, county supervisor, nursery owner, school board member, or entomologist to study the Red Imported Fire Ant and, in a public setting, determine a course of action in the battle of this new, troublesome pest.  Go to the Activity Page to get started.

 This page was last updated on 24 August, 1999

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