Jack jumper ant
|Jack jumper ant|
|Jack jumper worker|
F. Smith, 1858
|The jack jumper ant is endemic to most of Australia, including Tasmania.|
The jack jumper ant (Myrmecia pilosula), commonly known as the hopper ant, jumper ant or jumping jack, is a species of venomous ant native to Australia. Most commonly found in Tasmania and southeast Australia, it is a member of the Myrmecia giant bull ant genus and was first identified by Frederick Smith in 1858. Ants of this species are known for their ability to jump several inches. The queen has a similar appearance to a worker, and males are easily noticeable due to their perceptibly smaller mandibles. They are large ants; workers and males are around the same size: 12 to 14 millimetres (0.47 to 0.55 in) for workers, and 11 to 12 millimetres (0.43 to 0.47 in) for males. The queen is larger, measuring 14 to 16 millimetres (0.55 to 0.63 in) in length.
Jack jumpers are primarily active during the day and live in nests surrounded by gravel and sandy soil, which can be found in woodlands and urban areas. Jack jumpers prey on small insects and use their barbless stinger, killing the insect with injected venom. Other ants and predatory invertebrates prey on the jack jumper ant. The average jack jumper worker has a life expectancy of over one year. They possess the gamergates gene, which allows workers to reproduce with drones, either with or without the queen present in the colony. The jack jumper ant is a part of the Myrmecia pilosula species complex; this ant and other members of the complex are known to have a single pair of chromosomes.
The jack jumper's sting generally only causes a mild local reaction. However, along with other ants in the Myrmecia genus, it is one of the very few ant species that can be dangerous to humans. The ant venom is particularly immunogenic for an insect venom; the venom causes about 90% of Australian ant allergies. In endemic areas, up to 3% of the human population has developed an allergy to the venom and about half of these allergic people can suffer from anaphylactic reactions (increase of heart rate, falling blood pressure, and many other symptoms), which can lead to death on rare occasions. Between 1980 and 2000, there were four deaths due to anaphylaxis from jack jumper stings, all of which were in Tasmania. However, total deaths could be as high as six. Allergen immunotherapy (desensitisation) can be given to people who are prone to severe allergic reactions caused by jack jumper stings.
- 1 Taxonomy
- 2 Description
- 3 Distribution and habitat
- 4 Behaviour and ecology
- 5 Genetics
- 6 Interaction with humans
- 7 Historical treatment
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The taxonomic history of the genus Myrmecia was an interest to entomologists – the current synonyms Halmamyrmecia, Pristomyrmecia and Promyrmecia were once described as subgenera for Myrmecia ants. The jack jumper ant was first identified in 1858 by British entomologist Frederick Smith in his Catalogue of hymenopterous insects in the collection of the British Museum part VI, under the binomial name Myrmecia pilosula from specimens he collected in Hobart in Tasmania. There, Smith described the specimens of a worker, queen and male jack jumper. The specific name derives from the Latin word pilose, meaning 'covered with hair, especially soft hair'. The type specimen is located in the British Museum in London. In several publications by John Clark, the jack jumper ant was identified as Promyrmecia pilosula, separated from the genus Myrmecia.
One synonym for the species has been published – Ponera ruginoda (also titled Myrmecia ruginoda), described by Smith in the same work based on a holotype male. The synonym was initially placed into the genera Ectatomma and Rhytidoponera. It was later classified as a junior synonym of the jack jumper ant, after specimens of each were compared. Between ants with occipital carinae, the species was shown to be a monophyletic grouping, while other such Myrmecia ants were found to form a paraphyletic and basal assemblage. The jack jumper ant is a part of the Myrmecia pilosula species complex. The species complex is a monophyletic group, where the species are closely related to each other, but their actual genetic relationship is distant. The species group was first defined by Kazuo Ogata and Robert Taylor.
Their characteristic jumping motion when agitated or foraging inspires the common name "jack jumper", a behaviour also shared with other Myrmecia ants, such as Myrmecia nigrocincta. This is the most common name for the ant, along with "jumper ant", "jumping jack", "hopper ant", "black jumper" and "jumping ant". It is also named after the jumping-jack firecracker. The jack jumper is a member of the genus Myrmecia, a part of the subfamily Myrmeciinae. Most ancestors of the jack jumper ant, and Myrmecia as a whole, are found only in fossils, with the exception of Nothomyrmecia macrops, the only known living relative.
The jack jumper ant, like its relatives, possesses a powerful sting and large mandibles. Jack jumper ants can be black or blackish-red in colour, and they may have yellow or orange legs. The jack jumper is medium-sized in comparison to other Myrmecia species, where workers are typically 12 to 14 millimetres (0.47 to 0.55 in) long. Excluding mandibles, jack jumpers measure 10 millimetres (0.39 in) in length. The ant's antennae, tibiae, tarsi and mandibles are also yellow or orange. Pubescence (hair) on the jack jumper is greyish, short and erect, and is longer and more abundant on their gaster, absent on their antennae, and very short and suberect on their legs. The pubescence on the male is grey and very long, and abundant throughout the ant's body, but it shortens on the legs. The mandibles are long and slender (measuring 4.2 millimetres (0.17 in)), and concaves around the outer border.
The queen has a very similar appearance to the workers, but its middle body is more irregular and coarser. The queen is also the largest, measuring 14 to 16 millimetres (0.55 to 0.63 in) in length. Males are either smaller or around the same size as workers, measuring 11 to 12 millimetres (0.43 to 0.47 in). Males also have much smaller triangular mandibles than workers and queens. The mandibles on the male contain a large tooth at the centre, among the apex and the base of the inner border. Punctures (tiny dots) are noticeable on the head, where they are large and shallow, and the thorax and node are also irregularly punctuated. The pubescence on the male's gaster is white and yellowish.
Distribution and habitat
Jack jumper ants are abundant in most of Australia, being among the most common bull ant to be encountered. They can be found in the south-western tip of Western Australia, where they have been seen in the sand hills around Albany, Mundaring, Denmark and Esperance. Jack jumpers are rarely sighted in the northern regions of Western Australia. In South Australia, they are commonly found in the south-east regions of the state, frequently encountered in Mount Lofty (particularly the Adelaide Hills), Normanville, Hallett Cove and Aldgate, but they are not found in north-western regions. There are dense populations on the western seaboard of Kangaroo Island. Jack jumpers are widespread throughout the whole of Victoria, but they are uncommon in Melbourne. However, populations have been collected from the suburb of Elsternwick. In New South Wales, they are found throughout the entire state (with the exception of north-western New South Wales), but dense populations are mostly found in the Snowy Mountains, Blue Mountains and coastal regions. The ants are widespread in the Australian Capital Territory. In Queensland, jack jumpers are only found along the south-eastern coastlines of the state, where populations are frequently encountered in the Bunya Mountains, Fletcher, Stanthorpe, Sunshine Coast, Tamborine Mountain and Millmerran, and have been found as far north as Rockhampton.[a] The jack jumper ant also resides in all of Tasmania. Their presence in the Northern Territory has not been verified.
Jack jumper ants live in open habitats, such as pastures, gardens and lawns, preferring fine gravel and sandy soil. They can also be spotted around light bushland. Their preferred natural habitats include woodlands, open forests and rural areas, and they are less common in urban areas. Their nests are mounds built from finely granular gravel or soil, measuring 20 to 60 centimetres (8 to 24 in) in diameter. Jack jumpers utilise the warmth by decorating their nests with dry materials that heat in a quick duration, providing the nest with solar energy traps. They decorate their nests with seeds, soil, charcoal, stones, sticks, and even small invertebrate corpses. Jack jumpers camouflage their nests by covering leaf litter, debris and long grass over the nest. Some nesting mounds can be as tall as half of a metre (20 in) in height. Two types of jack jumper nests have been described: one being a simple nest with a noticeable shaft inside, the other being a complex structure surrounded by a mound. They can be found hidden under rocks, where queen jack jumper ants will most likely form their colony, or around small piles of gravel instead. Rove beetles in the genus Heterothops raise their brood in jack jumper nests. The jack jumper's range in southern Australia, like other regional ant species, appears like that of a relict ant. They often reside in damp areas, such as forests, that separate populations with broad stretches of arid land. Jack jumpers have been found in dry sclerophyll forests, at elevations ranging from 121 to 1,432 metres (397 to 4,698 ft), averaging 1,001 metres (3,284 ft).
Populations of jack jumpers are very dense in the higher mountain regions of Tasmania. Jack jumpers are widespread in the state, but they prefer rural areas, found in warm, dry, open eucalypt woodlands; the climate provides the ant with isolation and warmth. This environment also produces the ant's food, which includes nectar and invertebrate prey. In suburban areas, they are found in native vegetation, and use rockeries, cracks in concrete walls, dry dirt and grass to build nests. One study found suburbs with voluminous vegetation cover such as Mount Nelson, Fern Tree and West Hobart have present jack jumper populations, while the heavily urbanised suburbs of North Hobart and Battery Point, do not.
Insecticidal control of the jack jumper ant is successful in maintaining their populations around suburban habitats. Chemicals like bendiocarb, chlorpyrifos, diazinon and permethrin are effective against jack jumpers. Spraying of Solfac into nests is an effective way of controlling jack jumper nests if they are in a close range of areas with considerable amounts of congestion and human activity. Pouring carbon disulfide into nest holes and covering entrances up with soil is another method of removing jack jumper colonies. The Australian National Botanic Gardens has an effective strategy of marking and maintaining jack jumper nests.
Behaviour and ecology
Jack jumpers are primarily diurnal, and will search for food during the day until dusk. They are active during warmer months, but are dormant during winter. Jack jumper ants are highly territorial; fights between jack jumper ants are not uncommon, even among those of the same colony. Jack jumpers are known for their aggression towards humans and well developed vision, being able to observe and follow intruders from a metre (1.1 yd) away. Jack jumpers are easily attracted to movement. Jack jumpers are accomplished jumper ants with leaps ranging from 2 to 3 inches (51 to 76 mm). Wheeler (1922) compares jack jumper ants to "Lilliputian cavalry galloping to battle" when disturbed, due to their jumping behaviour. He wrote that they also made a ludicrous appearance as they emerge from their nests, in a series of short hops. While no studies have established whether or not jack jumper ants contain alarm pheromones, its relative Myrmecia gulosa is capable inducing territorial alarm using pheromones. If proven, this would explain the jack jumpers ability to attack en masse. The jack jumper ant is regularly observed on the inflorescences of Prasophyllum alpinum (mostly pollinated by wasps of the subfamily Ichneumonidae). Although pollinia is often seen in the ants' jaw, they have a habit of cleaning their mandibles on the leaves and stems of nectar-rich plants before moving on, preventing pollen exchange. It is unknown whether jack jumper ants contribute to pollination.
Unlike many ants that use scent to forage for food, jack jumpers use their sight to target their prey. Like other bull ants, jack jumper ants are solitary when they forage, but only workers perform this role. Jack jumper ants are specialist predators, omnivores and scavengers, where they forage typically in warmer temperatures for food. They sting their victims with a painful venom, killing its victim similar to that of wasps, bees, and fire ants. Unlike the bee, the jack jumper ant can sting multiple times, rather than immediately dying. Jack jumper ants are skilled hunters, partially due to their excellent vision; they can even kill and devour wasps and bees. They also kill and eat other ants, such as carpenter ants (Camponotus) and feed on sweet floral secretions and other sugar solutions. Jack jumpers often hunt for spiders, and they will sometimes follow their prey for a short distance, usually with small insects and small arthropods. Jack jumper ants, alongside M. simillima, have been given frozen houseflies (Musca domestica) and blowflies (Calliphoridae) as food under testing conditions. The jack jumper has been observed to run and leap energetically at flies when they land, particularly on Acacia shrubs, plants or trees. These ants have been known to feed on dog carcasses in their early decomposition stage. jack jumper ants and other Myrmecia ants prey on insects such as cockroaches and crickets.
Mature adult jack jumpers mostly eat sweet substances, so dead insects are given to their larvae they collect while foraging. However, larvae are only fed insects when they have reached a particular size. They will mostly collect small insects, sap-sucking insects a long with the honeydew which is taken to their nest to feed their young. Observations have been made of fly predation by jack jumper ants; Jack jumpers would only attack the smaller fly species and ignore larger flies.
Predators and parasites
Blindsnakes of the family Typhlopidae are known to consume Myrmecia broods, although smaller blindsnakes avoid them since they are vulnerable to their stings. Predatory invertebrates such as assassin bugs and redback spiders prey on jack jumpers and other Myrmecia ants, and echidnas, particularly the Short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus Aculeatus) hunt jack jumper ants, eating their larvae and eggs. Nymphs of the assassin bug species Ptilocnemus lemur lure jack jumper ants by trying to make the jack jumper sting them. The jack jumper ant is a host to the parasite gregarines (Gregarinasina). Ants that host this parasite change colour from their typical black appearance to brown. This was discovered when brown jack jumpers were dissected and found to have gregarinasina spores, while black jack jumpers showed no spores. If it is present in large numbers, the parasite interferes with the normal darkening of the cuticles while the ant is in its pupal stage. The cuticle softens due to the gregarine parasite.
Based on observations of six jack jumper worker ants, the average life expectancy of the jack jumper is around 1.3 years, but workers were shown to live as little as 1.12 years or as long as 1.6, with the queen living much longer than the workers at 10 years or more. This datum gives a life expectancy of 401–584 days, with an average of 474 days. Egg clumping is common, as observed in laboratory colonies. These clumps are often carried by worker ants, and these clumps would contain two to 30 eggs, without any larvae to hold them together. This confirms that eggs from jack jumper colonies do not always lie singly apart. Newborns can also eclose (emerge from their pupa stage) without assistance from other ants. George C. Wheeler and Jeanette Wheeler (1971) studied and described larvae collected from New South Wales and South Australia. They noted that very young larvae of the jack jumper were 2.4 millimetres (0.094 in) in length, with two types of body hair. They also described young larvae (matured from very young larvae) at 2.7 mm (0.11 in) in length, but with similar body characteristics to mature larvae, at 12.5 mm (0.49 in) in length. Sometimes, like other Myrmecia species, a queen will raid a nest, kill the resident queen and take over the colony. Once born, jack jumper ants can identify distinct tasks, an obvious primitive trait Myrmecia ants are known for.
Queens will mate with one to nine males during a nuptial flight, and the effective number of mates per queen ranges from 1.0 to 11.4. Studies show that most queen ants will only mate with one or two males. If the number of available male mates increases, the number of effective matings per queen decreases. Jack jumper colonies are polygyne, which means that they have multiple queens in one colony. When the queen establishes a nest after mating, she will hunt for food to feed her young, making her semi-claustral. Nests can hold as few as 500 ants or as many as 1,000. Excavated jack jumper nests typically have populations ranging from 34 to 344 individuals. Some colonies are polygynous and polyandrous. In a study of the genetic structure of jack jumper colonies, there were among one to four queens per colony, and 11 of the 14 colonies tested were polygynous (78.57%), showing that this is common in jack jumper colonies. The jack jumper ant possesses the gamergates gene, which gives workers the ability to reproduce in both queenless and queenright (colonies with a queen) colonies.
In multiple-queen colonies, the egg-laying queens are unrelated to one another. Because most colonies are polygynous, a jack jumper colony can have around one to four queens on average. Though mentioned earlier, polygynous and polyandrous societies can occur in some jack jumper nests, but it has also been shown that some nests (in rare situations), a colony can be both polygynous and highly polyandrous, rather than being either polygynous or polyandrous. Polyandry in jack jumper colonies is low in comparison to other Myrmecia ants, but it is comparable to M. pyriformis ants. In 1979, Craig and Crozier investigated the genetic structure of jack jumper ant colonies, and although queens are unrelated to each other as mentioned previously, the occurrence of related queens in a single colony was possible. During colony foundation, there are suggestions of dependent colony foundation in jack jumper queens, although independent colony foundations can occur, as the queens do have fully developed wings and can fly. Isolation by distance (IBD) patterns have been recorded, specifically where nests that tend to be closer to each other were more genetically similar in comparison to other nests farther away.
As colonies closer to each other are more genetically similar, independent colony foundation is most likely associated with nuptial flight if they disperse far from genetically similar colonies they originate from. Inseminated queens could even seek adoption into alien colonies if a suitable nest site area for independent colony foundation is restricted or cannot be carried out, known as the nest-site limitation hypothesis. Some queens could even try to return to their nests that they came from after nuptial flight, but end in another nest, in association that nests nearby will be similar to the queens birth nest.
The jack jumper ant genome is contained on a single pair of chromosomes (males have just one chromosome, as they are haploid). This is the lowest number known (indeed possible) for any animal. Jack jumper ants are taxonomically discussed as a single biological species in the Myrmecia pilosula species complex. The jack jumper has nine polymorphic loci, which yielded 67 alleles.
Interaction with humans
In 1931, three ant sting fatalities were recorded; two adults and an infant girl from New South Wales, possibly from the jack jumper ant or Myrmecia pyriformis. Another fatality was reported in 1963 in Tasmania. Historical and IgE results have suggested these two species or perhaps another species were responsible for all recorded deaths. Paul Clark first drew medical attention to the jack jumper ant in 1986. Before this, there had been no history of records of allergic reactions or study on their sting venom. The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy registered reactions to the jack jumper between 1989 and 1994, where they recorded 454 sting episodes in 224 subjects. Identification of jack jumper venom allergens began in the early 1990s. Before Brown's immunotherapy program, several attempts were done to desensitise patients who experienced allergic reactions, but the products used were ineffective and later withdrawn in the 1990s.
Between 1980 and 2000, there have been four recorded deaths, all in Tasmania and all due to anaphylactic shock. Outside this time period, there has been one fatality in New South Wales and another separate incident in Tasmania, bringing the total fatalities to six. All known patients who died from jack jumper stings were at least 40 years old and had cardiopulmonary comorbidities. Severe laryngeal oedema and coronary atherosclerosis was detected in most of the autopsies of those who died. Most of the victims died within 20 minutes after being stung. In 2001, the University of Technology, Sydney developed an immunotoxin, which targets malignant cells with a toxin found in the jack jumper ants venom, revealing that the venom can destroy cancer cells.
In 2003, Professor Simon Brown established the jack jumper desensitisation program, although the program is at risk of closure. There have been no recorded deaths from the jack jumper ant since 2003, after the establishment of the program. However, the jack jumper could have been responsible for causing the death of a Bunbury man in 2011, while ABC Hobart comments stating that jack jumpers inflict a greater death toll than sharks, spiders and snakes combined in Tasmania. Before the establishment of the organisation, the fatality rate was one person every four years from the sting. There have been numerous calls for rebates on the program.
The extent of the jack jumper sting problem differs among areas. Allergy prevalence rates are significantly lower in highly urbanised areas and much higher in rural areas. Jack jumper ants represent a hazard towards people in the southern states of Australia, due to a high proportion of the population having significant allergies to the ants sting. The jack jumper ant is responsible for most anaphylaxis cases in Australia, and rates of anaphylaxis are twice those of honeybee stings. One in three million annually die of general anaphalaxis in Australia alone. Over 90% of Australian ant venom allergies have been caused by the jack jumper.
The jack jumper ant is notorious in Tasmania, where most fatalities have been recorded. In 2005, over a quarter of all jack jumper sting incidents were sustained in Tasmania; excessive in comparison to its 2006 population of only 476,000 people. Jack jumper stings are the single most common cause of anaphylaxis in patients at the Royal Hobart Hospital. The jack jumper ant has also been a major cause of anaphylaxis outside Tasmania, notably around Adelaide and the outskirts of Melbourne, while cases in New South Wales and Western Australia have been more distributed. One in 50 adults have been reported to suffer anaphylaxis due to the jack jumper or other Myrmecia ants.
The jack jumper ant and its relatives in the genus Myrmecia are among the most dangerous ant genera and have fearsome reputations for their extreme aggression; Guinness World Records certifies the ant Myrmecia pyriformis as the world's most dangerous ant. Jack jumpers have been compared to other highly aggressive ant species, such as Brachyponera chinensis, Brachyponera sennaarensis, and the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta). The retractable sting is located in their abdomen, attached to a single venom gland connected by the venom sac, which is where the venom is accumulated. Exocrine glands are known in jack jumpers, which produce the venom compounds later used to inject into their victims. Their venom contains haemolytic and eicosanoid elements and histamines. It contains a range of active ingredients and enzymatic activity, which includes phospholipase A2 and B, hyaluronidase, acid and alkaline phosphatase. The venom of the ant also contains several peptides; one being pilosulin 1, which causes cytotoxic effects, pilosulin 2, which has antihypertensive properties, as well as pilosulin 3, 4 and 5. The peptides have known molecular weights. Pilosulin 1 inhibits the incorporation of methyl-3H thymidine into rapidly reproducing Epstein–Barr transformed (EBV) B-cells. The LD50 (lethal dose) occurs at a lower concentration than for melittin, a peptide found in bee venom. Its LD50 value is 3.6mg/kg (injected intravenously in mice).
Loss of cell viability in the jack jumper's venom was researched through cytometry, which measures the proportions of cells that glow in the presence of fluorescent dye and 7-Aminoactinomycin D. Examinations of the rapidly reproducing Epstein–Barr B-cells showed that the cells lost viability within minutes when exposed to pilosulin 1. Normal white blood cells were also found to alter easily when exposed to pilosulin 1. However, partial peptides of pilosulin 1 were less efficient at lowering cell viability; the residue 22 N-terminal plays a critical role in the cytotoxic activity of pilosulin 1.
20 percent of jack jumper ants have an empty venom sac, so failure to display a sting reaction should not be interpreted as a loss of sensitivity. Substantial amounts of ant venom have been analysed to characterise venom components, and the jack jumper has been a main subject in these studies. An East Carolina University study which summarised the knowledge about ant stings and their venom showed that only the fire ant and jack jumper had the allergenic components of their venom extensively investigated. These allergenic components include peptides found as heterodimers, homodimers and pilosulin 3. Only six Myrmecia ants, including the jack jumper, are capable of inducing IgE antibodies. Due to the vast differentiation of venom produced in each Myrmecia species, and other species sharing similar characteristics to the jack jumper ant, diagnosing which ant is responsible for an anaphylactic reaction is difficult. A review of a patients history with allergies while identifying a positive result of venom specific IgE levels helps to identify the species of ant that caused a reaction.
Signs and symptoms
Reactions to jack jumper stings show similar symptoms to fire ant stings; namely local swelling which lasts for several days, and swelling of the lips, face and eyes may occur from a minor allergic reaction. Other common symptoms include watering of the eyes and nose, and hives or welts will begin to develop. Headaches, anxiety and flushing may also occur. Jack jumpers, bees and wasps are the most common causes of anaphylaxis from insect stings. People most commonly feel a sharp pain after these stings, similar to that from an electric shock. Some patients develop a systemic skin reaction after being stung by a jack jumper. Localised envenomation occurs with every sting, but severe envenoming only occurs if someone has been stung many times (as many as 300 stings in adults). The heart rate increases, and blood pressure falls rapidly. Most people will only experience mild skin irritation after being stung. A severe allergic reaction can cause symptoms such as difficulty breathing and talking, swelling of the tongue and throat, coughing, chest tightness, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, loss of consciousness or collapse, and in children, symptoms like paleness and floppiness.
In individuals allergic to the venom (about 2–3% of the population), a sting sometimes causes anaphylactic shock. In comparison to other insects such as the Western honeybee (Apis mellifera) and the European wasp (Vespula germanica), their rates are only 1.4% and 0.6%. The annual sting exposure rates for the jack jumper ant, Western honeybee and European wasp are 12%, 7% and 2%. The median time from sting to cardiac arrest is 15 minutes, but the maximum period is around three hours. The jack jumper ant allergy does not disappear; people with jack jumper allergies will most likely suffer from another allergic reaction if re-stung. Approximately 70 percent of patients with a history of systemic reaction to the ant's sting have another reaction when stung again. In comparison, systemic reaction figures for Apis mellifera and Vespula germanica after being stung show a rate of 50% and 25%. About half of these reactions were life-threatening and occurred predominantly in people who had previous incidents with the sting. Anaphylaxis in jack jumper ant stings are not rare; 2.9% of 600 residents from semi-rural Victoria had allergic reactions to the ant's sting, according to a questionnaire. The sensitivity to stings is persistent for many years.
In 2011, an Australian ant allergy venom study was conducted, with the goal of determining which native Australian ants were associated with ant sting anaphylaxis. It showed that the jack jumper ant was responsible for the majority of patients' reactions to Myrmecia ant stings. Of the 265 patients who reacted to a sting from an ant belonging to the Myrmecia genus, 176 were from the jack jumper. 15 from M. nigrocincta and three from M. ludlowi. 56 patients had reacted to other Myrmecia ants. The study concluded that four native species of Australian ants caused anaphylaxis. Apart from Myrmecia species, the green-head ant (Rhytidoponera metallica) was also responsible for several systemic reactions.
First aid and emergency treatment
If no signs of an allergic reaction are present, an ice pack or commercially available sprays are used to relieve the pain. Stingose is also recommended to treat a jack jumper sting. Other treatments include washing the stung area with soap and water, and if continuous pain remains for several days, it is recommended to take antihistamine tablets for one to three days.
Emergency treatment is needed in a case of a severe allergic reaction. Before calling for help, laying a person down and elevating the legs is suggested. Depending on a patients needs, they will be given an EpiPen or an Anapen to use in case they are stung. In a scenario of experiencing anaphylaxis, further doses of adrenaline and intravenous infusions may be required. Some with severe anaphylaxis may suffer cardiac arrest and will need resuscitation. Inhalers may additionally be used in case a victim has asthma and experiences a reaction from a sting. The use of ACE inhibitors is not recommended, as it is known to increase the risk of anaphylaxis. Medications like antihistamines, H2 blockers, corticosteroids and anti-leukotrienes have no effect on anaphylaxis.
Desensitisation and prevention
Desensitisation (also called allergy immunotherapy) to the jack jumper sting venom has shown effectiveness in preventing anaphylaxis, but no analytical techniques to standardise jack jumper venom have been validated. Unlike bee and wasp sting immunotherapy, jack jumper immunotherapy lacks funding. Venom is available; however, no commercial venom extract is available that can be used for skin testing. Venom extract is only available through the Therapeutic Goods Administration Special Access Scheme.
The Royal Hobart Hospital offers a desensitisation program for patients who have had a severe allergic reaction to a jack jumper sting. However, the program may face closure due to budget cuts. Professor Simon Brown, who founded the program, commented, "Closing the program will leave 300 patients hanging in the lurch". There is a campaign to make the program available in Victoria. The Royal Adelaide Hospital runs a small-scale program that desensitises patients to jack jumper venom.
Patients are given an injection of venom under the skin in small amounts. During immunotherapy, the first dose is very small, but will gradually increase per injection. This sort of immunotherapy is designed to change how the immune system reacts to increased doses of venom entering the body.
Follow-ups of untreated people over thirty with a history of severe allergic reactions would greatly benefit from venom immunotherapy. Both rapid and slow doses can be done safely during immunotherapy. The efficacy (capacity to induce a therapeutic effect) of ant venom immunotherapy is effective in reducing systemic reactions in comparison to Placebo and whole body extract immunotherapy, where patients were more likely to suffer from a systemic reaction. Ultrarush initiation of insect immunotherapy may be used, but results show higher risks of allergic reactions. Immunotherapy is successful, but only ten percent of patients do not have any response to desensitisation.
It is suggested that people should avoid jack jumpers, but this is difficult to do. Closed footwear (boots and shoes) along with socks reduce the chances of encountering a sting, but wearing thongs or sandals will put the person at risk. With this said, jack jumpers are still capable of stinging through fabric, and can find their way through gaps in clothing. Most people are stung when gardening, so taking extra caution or avoiding gardening altogether is recommended. People can also avoid encountering jack jumpers by moving to locations where jack jumper populations are either low or absent, or eliminate nearby nests. Since Myrmecia ants have different venoms, people who are allergic to them are advised to stay away from all Myrmecia ants, specifically to ones they have not encountered before.
Most people recover uneventfully following a mild local reaction and up to about 3% of individuals suffer a severe localised reaction. Most individuals who suffer from severe localised reactions will most likely encounter another reaction if stung again. Fatalities are rare. Venom immunotherapy can prevent fatalities.
There are several bush remedies used to treat jack jumper stings (and any other Myrmecia sting). The young tips of a bracken fern provide a useful bush remedy to treat jack jumper stings, discovered and currently used by Indigenous Australians. The tips are simply rubbed on the stung area. The remedy may relieve the local pain after getting stung. Another plant used as a bush remedy is Carpobrotus glaucescens (known as angular sea-fig or pigface). The leaves on the plant contain juices squeezed and rubbed onto the stung area, which relieves the pain from the sting. This is additionally useful for other insect bites.
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|Wikispecies has information related to: Myrmecia pilosula|
|External identifiers for Jack jumper ant|
|Encyclopedia of Life||484351|