I want to set a scene where the victim is staked in the desert and stung by ants. Can ants kill people?Sure.
Fire ants, which can be found in the desert Southwest (Oklahoma and Texas), can kill.
Small animals like kittens can be killed. So can humans. Here’s how:
These are the most aggressive ants on the planet. They’re distinguished by a penny-colored head and thorax, and a darker body. They have mandibles or “jaws” In contrast to other kinds of ants, fire ants use their mandibles to grip the skin; a stinger in the abdomen delivers a venom (solenopsin). The ant can rotate around the site of its attachment and keep stinging. A swarm of ants can deliver a large number of stings in a short period of time.
The sting is said to be “like fire,” hence the name of the ants. It results in raised red bumps. Treatment of the skin with bleach or ammonia in water, meat tenderizer, or even urine will denature the venom and relieve some of the pain.
Most people can handle multiple stings; individuals allergic to insect stings (bees, scorpions, etc) are susceptible to severe allergic reactions called anaphylaxis. Flushing, profuse sweating, and swelling—particularly of the face and airway—and difficulty breathing occur in short order, ranging from seconds up to an hour. It’s a medical emergency, and death occurs if treatment isn’t undertaken with epinephrine (as in an epi-pen) and antihistamines.
As far as setting, in areas without ground cover, the ants form mounds, which can be up to fifteen inches high. A desert wound be a likely location for a mound, or even an area with little ground cover like a lawn or rough grazing land.
These ants are aggressive—disturbing the mound will bring them swarming out. Staking a victim allergic to bees/wasps/ants in the vicinity of a mound would work. A victim not allergic could potentially die if he/she had an underlying medical condition—bad heart, severe asthma, elderly are possibilities. The killer needs to be wary of stings; boots and heavy clothing are recommended.
Kelly has worked in the medical field for over twenty years, mainly at large medical centers. With experience in a variety of settings, chances are Kelly may have seen it.
Sometimes truth seems stranger than fiction in medicine, but accurate medicine in fiction is fabulous.
Find her fiction at www.kellywhitley.com.
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