Fire ants are an invasive species known for their painful bites, so they are never welcome on a property. However, they do have some interesting properties when it comes to allergies – they get rid of one dangerous allergy and replace it with another.
The “alpha-gal” meat allergy present in the United States is caused by a bite from the lone star tick, and it manifests itself as a severe reaction to mammalian meat such as pork and beef. It is common in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest areas of the US. However, in areas where you also have fire ants, the odds of developing this allergy are considerably lower.
The meat allergy
The allergy was first discovered over a decade ago, and through research, scientists have concluded that the bite of the lone star tick causes people to develop an allergic reaction to alpha-gal, which is a sugar that is present in mammalian meat and products. The symptoms of this allergic reaction include rashes, difficulty breathing, nausea, and anaphylaxis in severe cases.
When researchers set out to examine the geographic scope of this allergy, they found that it is common in 14 states. However, when the researchers surveyed Eastern Texas, there are almost no reported cases of meat allergy, despite the presence of ticks. In the early stages of research, the reason for this drop in cases was not readily apparent. Only after checking for other types of allergies in the area did the researchers find a higher degree of fire ant related allergies. So what happened is that in these areas tick allergies were replaced with fire ant allergies.
Fire ants prey on ticks, and since they are an invasive species, they have an evolutionary advantage, to the point where they wipe out the ticks in the area. This phenomenon is likely to spread north as fire ants grow in number, effectively removing one problem and replacing it with another. This very interesting occurrence can help researchers understand how the allergies will evolve over time and the changes that are coming in the future in a large biome across the US.
If you live in an area that is heavily infested with ticks or fire ants, it’s best to call a pest control specialist to take care of the issue right away. We can help you with this problem. Contact us today for more information or to set up an appointment.