News Release
California Department of Food and Agriculture
Media Contact:
Steve Lyle, Office of Public Affairs, (916) 654-0462,
Outdoor Workers Urged To Be On The Lookout for Red Imported Fire Ants
Release #01-044
Outdoor Workers need to beware of Red Imported Fire Ants,CDFA provides tips on how workers can protect themselves
The California Department of Food and Agriculture is urging California’s outdoor workers to be on the lookout for an occupational hazard so small it’s usually felt before it’s seen – the Red Imported Fire Ant.

Californians who work outdoors are especially susceptible to Red Imported Fire Ant attacks because the insects frequently infest gardens, electrical units, woodpiles, utility boxes, parks, homes and farmland. First identified in Southern California in 1998 and recently found in Fresno and Merced counties, Red Imported Fire Ants are tiny reddish-brown insects that are known to swarm and inflict a series of painful stings that form itchy, blister-like sores. A small percentage of people can be allergic to fire ant venom and, if stung, can experience difficulty breathing and other life-threatening reactions.

Red Imported Fire Ants are a menace to everyone in California who work outdoors,” said CDFA Secretary William J. (Bill) Lyons Jr. “I urge all outdoor workers to be on the lookout for Red Imported Fire Ants and report any suspicious ant colony to CDFA by calling 1-888-4FIREANT.”

Red Imported Fire Ants are typically more active when the temperature is between 75 and 95 degrees. Now that the weather is heating up, CDFA is urging all who work outdoors – including gardeners, landscapers, pool service technicians, utility workers, electricians, plumbers and farm workers – to follow these five steps to identify, avoid and report Red Imported Fire Ants:

• Look: Red Imported Fire Ants make their home wherever they find sufficient moisture or a food source. Fire ant mounds typically look like crumbly patches of soil and have multiple entrances. Also attracted to electrical currents, fire ants infest electrical boxes, causing shorting and other mechanical problems. The pest is also known to infest the walls of homes and agricultural crops such as almonds and citrus.

• Prepare: In infested areas, wear protective clothing to protect from fire ant swarms. Long-sleeve shirts, pants, gloves and closed-toe shoes can provide protection. Quickly brush the ants off your body to prevent injury

• Report: Call toll-free 1-888-4FIREANT (1-888-434-7326) to report suspected infestations. Do not try to treat suspected infestations yourself. Normal pest control methods often cause fire ant colonies to spread.
• First Aid: If you are stung, wash the area with soap and warm water to disinfect the area. Do not scratch the blister or it could become infected. Apply a topical anti-itch or antibiotic ointment, and or/take an oral antihistamine to relieve itching.

Beware: Should you experience symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, sweating, swelling of the affected area, headache, or shortness of breath after a fire ant attack, seek immediate medical treatment.

This alert is part of CDFA’s outdoor worker education program, which is aimed at informing outdoor workers about the dangers of Red Imported Fire Ants and the importance of reporting infestations

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California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814