In the world today, there are over 10,000 species of ants.
The majority of these ants can bite.
Some of these ants defend themselves with painful stings.
And a few others like the Argentine ants don’t sting or bite. Oftentimes, we see most of these ant species in our house as pests.
But how do we know which ones can bite and which ones can’t? In this article, we’ll help clear the air with a detailed analysis of those house ants that bite!
Do House Ants bite?
Not all the 10,000+ species of ants that have been discovered can be found within the household.
Many of them actually reside outdoors; in forests, trees, dry logs, and anywhere else suitable.
Although sometimes, some of these outdoor species do venture into households for food and water.
On the flip side, some other ant species spend most of their time within our homes. Common examples of such ants are the sugar ants.
Now, whether indoors or outdoors, all ant species have mandibulate mouthparts. Such mouthparts are devised specifically for biting and chewing.
However, some ants prefer not to use their mandibles to bite. This is because their food source requires less biting.
For those ant species that bite, their mandibles work like claws. And with it, they cut a very minute part of your skin to cause very sharp pains.
Now, here’s the thing; not every painful pinch from an ant is actually a bite.
This is because, in addition to the bite, some ant species can use some parts of their abdomen to cause powerful stings. So, some of those painful sensations that we feel can also come as a result of ant stings.
How to Differentiate between Ant Bites and Stings.
The difference is quite clear; ants bite with their mandibles. But to sting, they need to use a part of their abdomen called the gaster.
Oftentimes, this gaster is located near the tip of their abdomen as we have in bees and wasps.
The major difference between wasp stings and ant stings is that wasp stings are basic. For the stings and bites caused by ants, methanoic acid, aka, formic acid is the main component of the venom.
However, it should be noted that ant venom is not as potent as that of a snake. At worst, the methanoic acid in the ant bites and stings would only cause swelling, sometimes blisters, and acute pain.
Although, this pain varies by ant species. In some species like the fire ants, people feel a burning sensation when stung or bitten. In others, it’s just mere itching. But in people that are sensitive to ant bites, medical attention may be needed.
What do Ant Bites Feel and Look Like?
Identifying ant bites is quite easy. All you need to do is to look for the following symptoms around the bite area:
- Check for redness and itching. Sometimes, the bite area can also swell up and harden like a small or big pimple.
- Note the pain. If you have some kind of burning sensation, there’s a high chance that you’ve just been bitten by a fire ant.
- Sometimes, the swollen bite area may become filled with pus. When that happens, you have a blister on your skin. And this may take a couple of days to subside.
- In some cases, you may feel some kind of itchy rash on the elevated part of your skin. Such rashes are called urticaria.
- For those that are sensitive to ant bites and stings, certain allergic responses which need urgent medical attention may pop up. One of the most common ones includes Anaphylaxis which is a combo of vomiting, weak pulse, and itchy skin.
READ MORE: What Do Ants Eat – Diets of Ants.
Common House Ants That Bite:
1) Carpenter Ants.
In most cases, carpenter ants are black in color.
But sometimes, they can come either in red or brown colors as well.
Normally, their major habit is to bore into woods to form a complex network of tunnels. These tunnels serve as a waste disposal system. So, they don’t really eat the wood.
However, all 1,000 species of carpenter ants, like most ants, can and do bite humans when they’re threatened.
These threats, they feel, when you’ve been near their nests.
Luckily for us, these bites are not that harmful, well… not “fatally” harmful. As for pains, getting a single bite from a carpenter ants would give you an instantaneous hellish (burning) sensation.
But after some moments, the pain will subside.
Now, just because a bite from a carpenter ant cannot kill you, it doesn’t mean that you should just bear all the pain without first aid. So, we’ll tell you what to do after a bite from a carpenter ant as follows:
- Start by washing the bite area with water and a bar of antiseptic soap.
- After cleaning, dab the area with moist and cold clothing.
- If there’s swelling, add pain-relieving balm or cocktail of baking soda and water or calamine lotion.
- Avoid scratching the bite area.
- Stay calm until the pain becomes numb.
2) Pavement Ants.
Pavement ants can either have black or brown skin tones.
Though, we think black is their favorite color. In terms of behavior, pavement ants, like their name, are often found along pavements.
Sometimes, you can find them under undisturbed stones, curbs, inside walls, and even within floor crevices.
Like fire ants, pavements have both mandibles and gasters (stingers).
With those two, they can bite and sting to hunt their prey.
But for some reason, pavement ants prefer to feed more on grease, honeydew, and seeds.
And even though they can eat insects and meat as well, pavement ants are gentle with their predator sense. As such, they are much less aggressive compared to fire ants.
So, if you get bitten by a pavement ant, what you need to ameliorate the pain is quite simple.
Get some ice, wrap it in a piece of clean clothing and then dab the bite area. Stay calm for a few minutes, and everything should be okay if you’re not allergic to their stings.
If you are, visit the nearest hospital before anaphylaxis sets in.
3) Black Imported Fire Ants.
It’s a fact; all fire, whether black or red, bites!
The black imported fire ants, as evident in their name, are endemic to South America alone.
They only got to some parts of the United States like Mississippi, Texas, and even Alabama via travels.
Like their red cousins, black fire ants construct and live within anthills. Theirs is only bigger.
Oftentimes, black fire ants bite humans only when they sense threats around their anthills.
This is why children on playgrounds, gardeners, and pets like dogs and cats have the highest number of fire ant bites.
When threatened, fire ants would troop in with a rage of biting and stinging.
Once they start biting, they won’t stop until they no longer feel that sense of threat. Now, you get why fire ants have such a bad rap compared to other ant species.
Like most ant bites, treating a bite from a black imported fire ant shouldn’t cost you any hospital bills. That’s if you’re not allergic. Instead, you can use the following first aid:
- Fire ant bites are most likely going to cause your skin to swell. You can tackle this with a cold compression on the bite area at 20 minutes intervals for one hour straight; at least.
- Use calamine lotion or any itch-relief cream.
- Alternatively, you can opt-in for an oatmeal bath.
- Sometimes while dealing with itchy skin, some skin swelling may have been cut open. To deal with this, you
- Be patient and remain calm. Because yes, you will feel the burning sensation. But all that we mentioned above will help you bear the pain.
4) Acrobat Ants.
Acrobat ants have one unique habit; they can make their abdomens rise above their heads and thorax.
So, you get the idea where their name comes from.
They live mostly in soils, trees, and under unturned stones. Outdoors, acrobat ants feed on honeydew, damaged woodworks, and other insects.
When in search of food, our homes are one of the first places they think of. Because of this, many people often regard them as house ants.
But unlike most house ants, acrobat ants are doubly aggressive. Worst still, they can fly. When disturbed, they often release some kind of odor that’s repugnant to men and other predators.
READ MORE: How Long Do Ants Live?
5) Field Ants.
Like their name, field ants are often found in gardens and lawns, trees and rocks, sidewalks, and fences.
In these places, field ants make their anthills and reside therein.
Likewise, they are usually reddish like fire ants. So oftentimes, people confuse them with fire ants. But unlike fire ants, field ants cannot sting.
As such, field ants are much more aggressive than fire ants.
However, some species of field ants have venom-filled mostly with methanoic acid. Because of that, some field ants can also deliver painful bites that last for like one hour.
6) Red Fire Ants.
Among all ants, fire ants are believed to deliver the most painful stings.
According to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, fire ants are rated second.
Oftentimes, victims describe the pain as a “sharp and sudden pain” with a burning sensation. That’s the feeling of a bite from only one fire ant. But when these little critters attack, they do so in swarms and repeated stings.
In conclusion, we can say that all ants can bite because of their mouthparts.
Those house ants can bite include fire ants, acrobat ants, pavement ants, and others. Some house ants like fire ants can also sting. Both ant stings and bites have methanoic acid or aka formic acid. This methanoic acid is responsible for the sharp paint we all feel from ant bites.