a close up of a fire ant, fire ant stings

Fire ants are an invasive species in the southern United States, gradually making their way northward. These aggressive ants live in colonies and they have a ferocious and painful sting that feels like a burn. Is there any way to ease the pain?

Easing the Pain of Fire Ant Stings:

Q. My home town is in extreme drought and about the only thing growing now are weeds. They were getting pretty tall, so I decided to mow. When I stopped to pick up a limb, I felt hot stinging and looked at my hand to see fire ants on it.

I brushed them off and went inside to find something to treat them. The stings make me itch and burn; they create white pimple-like pustules and red swollen areas.

I reached for the spray bottle of vinegar I keep in my kitchen for cleaning and disinfecting. I sprayed my hand and left the spray on the skin. In a few seconds the burning stopped, then the itching. I had a little redness but pustules never did form.

This is the fastest and best remedy I’ve ever found for fire ant bites.

Beware Allergic Reactions to Fire Ants:

A. Thanks for sharing your success. We didn’t know that vinegar (acetic acid) could overcome the venom of fire ants (Solenopsis invicta). A recent study showed that crazy ants (Nylanderia fulva) use formic acid they produce themselves to detoxify fire ant venom when the two groups fight each other (Science, Feb. 28, 2014).

Other readers report success against fire ant bites with topical witch hazel, the OTC acne drug benzoyl peroxide, Vicks VapoRub, castor oil or a cut onion. Keep in mind that some people react to fire ant stings with a severe allergic reaction that can even proceed to anaphylaxis. Those individuals need immediate emergency attention if they are stung.

Revised 8-8-16

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  1. melinda

    I use white vinegar all the time as well but not so much for constant clean up as I think it might have eaten our iron pipes out a bit early. I do use tea tree oil as a soother to bites and I keep real aloe vera for burns which seems to really work as well but only fresh right off the plant.

  2. PP

    Vinegar for everything. Last week it was a deodorant, now it’s for stings. I use it in the kitchen to soak produce. You should see the sand that comes off! (Be sure and rinse them off after the soak. In the bathroom I use it for a quick clean up of the sink from soap or toothpaste film. All this is with white vinegar. At the first sign of a cold we gargle with a 50/50 solution of cider vinegar & water, then swab our nostrils. A bit nasty, but it sure prevents colds and other bugs.

  3. Thai

    On the beach at Ziahuataneo, Mexico, I was enjoying standing in the warm water with my snorkel looking underwater, when a clear jellyfish attached itself to my forearm and bit me. I shook my arm violently, screamed, and ran back to my husband sitting under our palapa on the beach. A young local man ran over and said to put lime juice on it. We always carried limes from our tree to put on fruit and food to help avoid getting sick when traveling, so I grabbed a cut lime and squeezed it on the bite wound, then laid it on top. The pain went away immediately! I was so glad we had a bite remedy right in our insulated lunch carrier!

  4. Judy

    I live in Florida on 5 acres. They made my life miserable until I discovered a solution that not only stops the sting but keeps them from making the awful red bumps. Deodorant with Aluminum in it. I kept a container outside to grab at the first sign of trouble. It also helps with mosquitoes and bee stings.

  5. Lisa Watkins
    Fort Mill, SC

    As crazy as this may sound use the hair dryer on the hottest setting for a few minutes and it works on fire ants immediately

  6. Donnie

    This is very useful information. My mother-in-law was bitten many times by fire ants, and didn’t know what to do. She was in severe pain and had intense itching from the many bites on the lower half of her body.

  7. Lou G

    I posted the initial topic. I use regular white vinegar in the spray bottle. As I stated, it’s great for cleaning countertops, stove tops, etc. My son was bitten by jellyfish as a young boy when we were at a Corpus Christi beach. I forget what the medic at the beach put on it, but I don’t think it was vinegar. I’ll try vinegar on any sting now, as bee and wasp stings really affect me. I’ve tried only a few of the above mentioned remedies for fire ant bites, but still had some pustules or redness for a day or so. But I was very surprised and pleased at the results of the vinegar.

  8. kiramea

    I was raised in Texas, and have had to deal with fire ants most of my adult life. Back in the early 80’s a toddler that a friend was watching got into an fire ant mound, and was covered head to toe with fire ants. We brushed them off, and I suggested to the friend to douse the child with vinegar. She grabbed her vinegar, held the child under the sink and poured the quart of vinegar all over the child. He immediately stopped crying, and within 5 minutes all the redness went away. When the mother came to pick up the child, you could not tell he was even bit. My friend did tell the mother about the incident, and was told the next day that the child never had a pustule come up. I now keep vinegar around just in case I get stung by one.

  9. jean gers

    What has worked for me in the past is a paste of water and meat tenderizer. However that left a gritty surface, until it was washed off. I like this solution better.

  10. J.P.

    Also have been using WITCH HAZEL for mannny years for all kinds of bites, stings, bruises, sprains etc.
    Works quickly. Also for best results apply as soon as possible.

  11. leigh

    what kind of vinegar?
    is it also good for jellyfish stings?

    • Carleton

      White vinegar, as was stated above, “One reader shares a favorite home remedy (white vinegar) to deal with the uncomfortable sting from the bites of fire ants.”

  12. AB

    A paste of regular table salt mixed with water and applied to ant bites will immediately take away the sting.

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