Stinging Insects in Alabama

Stinging Insects

Yellow Jackets
Yellow jacket illustration

One of the most common stinging insects encountered by Alabama residents is the yellow jacket.

These insects build their nests underground or in protected locations above ground. If they sense their nest is being threatened, they will "boil" out of the nest and begin stinging whatever person or pet they perceive as a danger to the colony.

Yellow jackets are widely distributed and are likely to be seen in the early fall months at outdoor picnics and other places since they are attracted to food odors, especially the sugars found in soft drinks.

Baldfaced Hornets:
Bald faced hornet sitting in nest

Another important stinging insect is the baldfaced hornet. While not as common as yellow jackets, they do possess a sting described by many as being more painful than the yellow jacket's sting.

While most sting victims experience intense temporary pain, the stings of both yellow jackets and baldfaced hornets can cause major health problems for individuals that are highly allergic to the venom delivered by their sting.

Red Imported Fire Ants:
Fire ant illustration

Another common stinging insect in Alabama is the red imported fire ant. These ants are thought to have arrived into the United States during the 1930s in a shipment of fire ant infested cargo that arrived at the port of Mobile. Since that time these ants have invaded most of the South and some of the Midwest.

While fire ants usually live in the soil, they will go inside a home or other building seeking food, moisture and shelter. Outdoors, the usual locations of fire ants are open, sunny locations such as lawns, fields and pastures. The most obvious indication of fire ant colonies is above ground dirt mounds created by soil that the ants excavate to form their colony's tunnels and nest cavities.

As their name suggests, fire ant bites and stings are very painful and produce a reddish bump and white pustules.

Colonies may grow to number from 100,000 to nearly half of a million members, so when fire ant colonies are disturbed, the results can be large numbers of painful stings and bites.

As with yellow jackets and hornets, people who are allergic to the ant's venom are at risk of suffering serious medical problems.