Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

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Protect Yourself! Workers may be exposed to

Fire Ants

Fire ants resemble ordinary ants. They average 1/8 to 1/4 inch in length and are reddish brown to black in color. Fire ants display aggressive behavior and they build mound-shaped nests.


Fire ants attack anything that disturbs their mound (nest). They firmly grasp skin with their jaws, and then sting and inject venom. Fire ants pivot at the head and inflict more stings in a circular pattern.


The sting of a fire ant develops into a pustule (small, firm blister-like sore) in 24-48 hours. These pustules can become sites of secondary infection. Fire ant venom may cause a severe reaction in hypersensitive individuals, including nausea, shock, chest pains, and in rare cases, coma.


  • Be aware – don’t stand on ant nests or areas where they are foraging.
  • Wear boots and/or tuck pant legs into your socks to reduce the risk of bite/sting.
  • Use insect repellants, such as DEET or Picaridin, on clothing and footwear.
  • If attacked, leave area immediately while brushing off ants with the use of a gloved hand or by using a cloth.
  • Consult your pharmacist for treatment of minor bites and irritation.
  • Seek immediate medical attention, particularly if you feel short of breath or have swelling.
Fire Ant

Photo: Texas A&M University

Fire Ant

Photo: Bart Drees, Texas A&M University

Fire Ant

Photo: Bart Drees, Texas A&M University

This is one in a series of informational fact sheets highlighting OSHA programs, policies or standards. It does not impose any new compliance requirements. For a comprehensive list of compliance requirements of OSHA standards or regulations, refer to Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations. This information will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. The voice phone is (202) 693-1999; teletypewriter (TTY) number: (877) 889-5627.


For more complete information:

footnote imageOccupational
Safety and Health

U.S. Department of Labor
(800) 321-OSHA


DSG 10/2005

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