Vacation season is in bloom and many people have plans to go to Tasmania, or even New South Wales, or even South Australia. These are great places to go for on a vacation, but there is one thing that everyone should be aware of. Here in the USA, in the summer we normally have to worry about bee, hornet, and wasp stings, well in the stated above areas, there is one more character that you need to be aware of. That is the Jack Jumper Ant.
The Jack Jumper Ant is not like any normal ant. It is part of the species of the bulldog ant and is native to Australia. This ant is sometimes referred to as the Hopper Ant or Jumper Ant. The ants are spread throughout the country but are mostly found in Tasmania, rural Victoria, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, and the southeast area of South Australia. This unique ant can grow up to 12 millimeters long and are very aggressive and vicious. Black in color with yellow or orange legs, their name is given due to their jumping motion. This well named ant can usually only jump five or six centimeters, however they can jump up to 20 centimeters if necessary.
Their nests are normally hidden under a rock, so be careful where you are walking. These ants are carnivores and scavengers. Before eating them they sting their meal or victims then inject them with venom. The number of stings from the Jack Jumper ant is equal to about double that for bees. When you get stung by this bull-ant, it can cause anaphylaxis, which is a severe and life threatening allergic reaction in which the person often gets a rash, feels their throat tighten, also has swelling of the lips, and face as well as having very difficulty in breathing.
Anaphylaxis to the Jack Jumper is not rare. Jack Jumper ants cause more deaths in Tasmania than spiders, snakes, wasps, and sharks combined. This allergic reaction to this ant does not disappear quickly. Studies have shown that 70% of people with the allergy will have another allergic reaction if re-stung. This sensitivity to repeat stings seem to go on for many years.
If you get stung, treatment is very similar to wasp or bee stings, however there is also a program that has been developed using the jack jumpers own venom. The venom is collected by sucking the ants up into a dust buster, then the ants are cleaned and put into a special box that pass an electric current along the base. When the current passes through the ants get agitated and angry therefore stinging the base of the special box. The venom is then smeared across the glass slide and collected. The jack jumpers are then released back into the wild.
On a good note, the majority of insects in Australia are not harmful to humans. Some insects bite and sting if they are threatened so it is best to avoid touching them if you want to avoid being stung or bitten.
I personally am not a big fan of the creepy crawly type critters, but I never thought I would be afraid of an ant. So those of you traveling to Australia this year, be cautious and safe. If you see a big ant wiggling it’s antennas at you, walk quickly in the opposite direction. Sometimes Jumper Ants are difficult to avoid, if you have to be out in the woods or even gardening, it makes sense to wear heavier clothing and you will be safe…wrong.. Jumper ants can sting through heavy clothing such as boots and gloves. And if you do get stung, whether you think it is this Jack Jumper or not, seek medical attention right away.