A 3-month-old girl died Monday several hours after being attacked by a swarm of ants during a nap in her west Phoenix home, said Phoenix police detective Tony Morales.
Morales said a caregiver put the girl down in her crib about 2 p.m. When the caregiver returned the baby was swarmed by ants, Morales said.
The girl was unresponsive as the babysitter put her on the kitchen table and tried to revive her, said Phoenix fire Division Chief Joe Ducote.
"She was pretty much covered with bites," Ducote said.
The girl’s throat was swollen as firefighters tried to revive her. She died at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, authorities said.
Although some ants were found in the crib, it was unknown why the ants swarmed the girl or what kind of ants they were, Ducote said.
Ant attacks are not unheard of, but are uncommon, said Tom Martin, president of AAA Africanized Bee Removal Specialists.
Martin recalled an episode in Tucson in 1988 where a 2-year-old girl was swarmed and stung by ants. He said he sprayed her with bee solution to kill them.
"I never heard of anybody dying from ant stings," Martin said.
Ants and bees are part of the hymenopteran class of insects that include bees, ants, and wasps.
Throat-swelling is a trait of anaphylaxis shock, leading Martin to believe the ants in the Phoenix case could have been stinging ants. Stinging ants have venom and can be found in rocky soil, Martin said.
"Usually when this happens it’s like a fire ant," Martin said. "The most severe attacks or injuries come from the stinging variety."