Because of the stings they can inflict, harvester ants may cause a public health risk to the customers we serve.
Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org

Editor’s note: Rollins’ Chelle Hartzer and Tim Husen have been taking turns writing this quarterly Pest Perspectives column for the past two years. This month, Husen hands his column off to Glen Ramsey, technical services manager at Rollins in Atlanta. Previously Ramsey was with Allgood Pest Solutions, Duluth, Ga., for six-plus years.

Imagine a world where ants did not have the ability to sting people. Obviously, not all ants sting, but some, including fire ants, harvester ants and introduced invasive species like the Asian needle ant cause concerns for the public health of the customers we serve. The PMP’s role in the health and well-being of the public is of serious importance.

BREATHING IS GOOD. Some people are particularly sensitive to stings from insects, and ants are the topic du jour here in PCT’s Annual Ant Control Issue. Every person reacts in a different way. While some seem to show no reaction at all, others can reach a state of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe reaction in humans where there is an over-release of chemicals in the body that sends an individual into shock, often affecting the individual’s ability to breathe properly. While this is not the reaction most have to insect stings, it is of utmost concern to those who react in this manner.

For most people, ant stings involve localized reactions of redness, swelling, itching and some level of pain. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, “potentially life-threatening allergic reactions occur in 0.4-0.8 percent of children and 3 percent of adults. At least 90-100 deaths per year result from insect sting anaphylaxis.

One thing to remember is that it is impossible to diagnose a reaction from an insect bite or sting without additional information. With ants, you might have a mound or some dead individuals to help you determine a cause. In most cases, PMPs are not medical doctors (with the exception of Dr. Stuart Mitchell). We can identify a pest or pest habitats, but if we get into human reactions and conditions, it is recommended that your customer seek assistance from a medical professional.

HELP THE CUSTOMER. Some customers are very open about their medical situation. (Maybe a little too much sometimes.) Yeah, you know that customer I am referencing; we all have one (or many). Others may not tell you that they have severe reactions to insect bites or stings. In the big picture, it does not matter. We should be doing our best to keep their environment free of potential dangers to health.

Spring is upon us again and ant activity is blooming. If you get a service call to a home for cockroaches, why not go the extra mile and do a full site inspection? Check the yard for dangers and bring them to your customer’s attention. If they are covered under your pest agreement, take care of them in an appropriate manner. If they are not covered, explain the potential risk and what you can do to protect their family. Sometimes an upsell sells itself.

As pest professionals, we must always remember our role in public health. We serve a critical role in the lives of our customers and their customers and/or families. Proactive notification and action on public health-related pest problems builds trust and lasting relationships between your customers and your business.

The author is technical services manager at Rollins, Atlanta.