Ant Bite vs Spider Bite: Key Differences Explained

Insect bites are an unpleasant experience many people encounter, and it’s helpful to know the difference between an ant bite and a spider bite. Both can cause discomfort, but their symptoms and treatment may vary.

In this article, we will explore the key differences between these two types of bites, as well as some examples for better identification.

Ant bites typically result in immediate pain, redness, and swelling at the site. Some ants, like fire ants, can cause more intense pain and even a burning sensation.

An Ant Alate

On the other hand, spider bites’ reactions can range from mild to severe depending on the species, with symptoms such as itching, rash, and localized pain.

For example, a black widow spider bite can cause muscle pain, cramping, and even damage to the nervous system in some cases.

File:Black Widow spider, Female.jpg
Black Widow Spider. Source: Wales at English WikipediaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s essential to recognize the signs of each type of bite to seek appropriate treatment and care. While both bites can cause discomfort, knowing their specific characteristics can help you take the right steps for a quicker recovery.

Identifying Ant Bites and Spider Bites

Physical Differences

  • Ant bites: Often appear as small, raised red bumps on the skin
  • Spider bites: Can vary in appearance but may resemble other insect bites, such as a bee sting, with redness and swelling

In some cases, spider bites might produce a distinct set of puncture wounds due to the spider’s fangs.

Symptoms Comparison

Ant bites:

  • Immediate pain
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Spider bites:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Possible blistering

As mentioned above, it is important to note that the severity of symptoms can vary depending on the species of spider.

 Ant BitesSpider Bites
AppearanceSmall red bumpVaries; red and swollen
PainImmediateVaries
ItchinessYesRare
SwellingYesYes
BlisteringRarePossible

In conclusion, it is essential to observe any physical differences and symptoms when trying to identify ant bites and spider bites.

However, if symptoms worsen or you are unsure about the cause of the bite, it is recommended to seek medical advice.

Types of Ants and Spiders and Their Bites

Fire Ants

Fire ants are a type of ant common in the southern United States. Their bites can be quite painful and may cause:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itchiness

For example, if you accidentally step on a fire ant mound, you might experience multiple bites causing discomfort and irritation.

Common Spiders

In the United States, there are two common venomous spiders: the black widow and the brown recluse. Their bites might have different effects:

  • Black widow: pain, muscle cramps, sweating, vomiting, and abdominal discomfort
  • Brown recluse: skin necrosis, blister at the site, chills, and fever
A Brown Recluse Spider. Source: Rosa Pineda, From Wikimedia Commons.

Comparison Table:

 Fire Ant BiteBlack Widow BiteBrown Recluse Bite
LocationSouthern United StatesUnited StatesUnited States
SymptomsRedness, swelling, itchingPain, muscle cramps, abdominal discomfortSkin necrosis, chills, fever
SeverityMild to moderateModerate to severeModerate to severe

It is important to be cautious around both ants and spiders to prevent unnecessary bites and potential health risks.

Bite Treatments and Home Remedies

Mild Reactions

Mild reactions to ant and spider bites can be managed with a few simple home remedies. For both types of bites, you can follow these steps:

  • Wash the area with soap and water
  • Apply ice or a cold compress to reduce pain and swelling
  • Use over-the-counter (OTC) anti-itch creams to minimize itching

For example, pain from an ant bite can be managed with a cold compress, while itching from a spider bite responds well to OTC anti-itch creams.

Severe Reactions

Severe reactions to ant or spider bites may require additional treatments or even medical attention. Symptoms of a severe reaction include difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, and excessive swelling. In these cases, consider the following:

  • Taking an antihistamine like Benadryl to manage allergic reactions
  • Seeking medical help if symptoms worsen or do not improve within a few hours

Ant Bites vs. Spider Bites: Comparison Table

FeatureAnt BitesSpider Bites
PainYesYes
ItchingYesYes
Ice/Cold compressesHelpfulHelpful
OTC anti-itch creamsEffectiveEffective
BenadrylMay be neededMay be needed
Medical help (severe cases)RecommendedRecommended

Remember to monitor the bite and seek professional help if symptoms worsen or do not improve after a few hours.

When to Seek Medical Help

Allergic Reactions

Some people may experience allergic reactions to ant or spider bites. Symptoms to watch out for:

  • Hives or rash
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face, lips, or tongue

If you notice these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider or seek emergency care immediately, as this could be anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Signs of Infection

If a bite becomes infected, prompt medical attention is required. Common indications of infection include:

  • Increased redness and warmth around the bite
  • Pus discharge
  • Fever
  • Red streaks radiating away from the bite area

Consult your healthcare provider if you notice signs of infection.

Severe Pain or Swelling

While moderate pain and swelling are expected, severe pain or excessive swelling may signal a more serious issue. Some examples of these include:

  • Severe pain lasting more than 24 hours
  • Swelling that spreads beyond the immediate area of the bite

In such cases, it’s essential to reach out to a healthcare provider or visit an emergency facility.

Comparison table: Ant Bite vs. Spider Bite

AspectAnt BiteSpider Bite
PainMild to moderate; may persist for hoursVaries; can be mild to severe
SwellingLocalized; typically moderateCan be localized or spread
Allergic ReactionRare but possibleMore likely with some spider species
InfectionPossible but rarePossible but rare
Severe ReactionsUncommonMore common with venomous spiders
Swarm of Ants

Comparison with Other Insect Bites and Stings

Bee and Wasp Stings

  • Bee stings
    • Feature a barbed stinger, which remains lodged in the skin
    • Cause localized pain, swelling, and redness
    • Can cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals
    • Require removal of the stinger and prompt treatment
  • Wasp stings
    • No barb on the stinger, allowing for repeated stings
    • Cause similar symptoms to bee stings
    • May trigger allergic reactions, although less commonly

Comparison to ant and spider bites:

  • Bee stings and wasp stings usually cause more pain than ant bites
  • Ant bites are more localized, whereas spider bites can have more systemic effects

Executioner Wasp Vs Tarantula Hawk

Flea and Tick Bites

  • Flea bites
    • Small, red, and itchy
    • Clustered in groups of three or four
    • Can transmit diseases like cat scratch fever and tapeworms
  • Tick bites
    • Come from ticks that attach to the skin and feed on blood
    • May cause mild itching and redness
    • Can transmit Lyme disease or other tick-borne infections

Comparison to ant and spider bites:

  • Flea bites are itchier than ant bites but less severe than spider bites
  • Tick bites are more concerning than ant bites due to potential disease transmission

Mosquito and Bed Bug Bites

  • Mosquito bites
    • Cause itching, redness, and swelling
    • Can transmit diseases like malaria and West Nile virus
    • Tend to be random in pattern
  • Bed bug bites
    • Appear as small, red, raised welts
    • May cause an allergic reaction in some individuals
    • Typically found in groups or rows on exposed skin

Comparison table: Ant Bites vs. Spider Bites vs. Mosquito Bites vs. Bed Bug Bites

 Ant bitesSpider BitesMosquito BitesBed Bug Bites
PainMildMild to severeSlight, itchyMinimal, itchy
SwellingLocalizedVariableMinimalMinimal
DiseaseRareRareCommon in some areasRare, allergic reaction
PatternRandomSingle siteRandomGroups, linear rows

Assessing the differences:

  • Ant bites are less severe than spider bites, with less swelling
  • Mosquito bites are itchier than ant bites but lack pain intensity
  • Bed bug bites cause mild reactions but tend to appear in groups, unlike ant bites

Potential Complications and Prevention

Serious Health Issues

While ant and spider bites can be mild, some bites may lead to severe complications. Venomous spiders such as the black widow and brown recluse can cause issues like:

  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Sepsis

Ant stings, like fire ant bites, can also cause complications, but usually only if you’re allergic.

Avoiding Bites and Stings

To minimize the risk of bites and stings, follow these tips:

  • Wear protective clothing when in insect-prone areas
  • Use insect repellent
  • Keep home and outdoor areas clean and free of debris

Here’s a comparison table of spider and ant bites:

Bite TypeVenom/PoisonCommon ComplicationsLikelihood of Severe Reaction
AntVenomAllergic reactions, infectionLow
Non-venomous SpiderNoneInfectionLow
Venomous SpiderVenomRhabdomyolysis, osteomyelitis, sepsisHigh

Remember to stay cautious and take preventive measures to avoid complications from ant and spider bites.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is crucial to understand the difference between ants and spiders to treat them more effectively.

Remember that mild reactions to both types of bites can be treated with the home remedies mentioned above, however, you must seek medical attention in case of severe symptoms and allergy.

Always be careful and take preventive measures to minimize the risk of bites and stings from these insects.

Footnotes

  1. MedlinePlus – Spider Bites 2

  2. Entomology – MYSTERY BITES: Insect and Non-Insect Causes

  3. UC ANR Integrated Pest Management Program – Spider Mites Management Guidelines

Readers’ Mail

Over the years, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about ants and spiders. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Ants

Subject: can you help naming thes bugs?
Location: Central Florida
July 15, 2014 5:26 pm
we own a pool in Florida and these bugs are in the thousands in my pool and I cant identify them I was wondering if you can help me with my problem. I am sending you a picture of them hoping you can tell me what they are.

If you can identify them and help me I am very appreciative thanks.
Signature: na

Ants
Ants

Dear na,
If you want an identification, you should try to provide us with a high quality image, not a low resolution, tiny file.  These appear to be Ants.

Letter 2 – Ants in panties

Dear What’s that Bug,
The ants which have invaded my boyfriend’s apartment have a special love for my panties. Every morning, I find that the previous day’s pair has been invaded by an army of panty-crazy ants.

I know that it is most likely the delightful scent I impart to this intimate clothing that attracts these lustful insects, but I find the whole situation to be a bit distasteful. Is there anything I can do to keep the anties away from my panties?
Yours,
Ant Bait


Dear Sugar Snatch,
I don’t think you want to resort to spraying your panties with Raid™ or some other insecticide, and I also don’t think your boyfriend would appreciate you changing your delightful personal aroma.

I think the solution is to pick up after yourself and not leave your panties strewn about the floor where the ants can find them.

You can also try washing them by hand and hanging them to dry so that you have a fresh pair of panties after your sleepover.

Letter 3 – Ant Alate may be Cornfield Ant and comments on Patience

Subject: What is this?!
Location: Brooklyn Park, MN
August 21, 2014, 5:30 pm
Please tell me what these are? There are thousands of them flying all over my yard!
How do I get rid of them?
Signature: Creeped out in MN

Our automated response:
Thank you for submitting your identification request.
Please understand that we have a very small staff that does this as a labor of love. We cannot answer all submissions (not by a long shot). But we’ll do the best we can!

So… does that mean that I should wait to get an answer or that you can’t answer my question?

Ant Alate

Ant Alate

Dear Creeped out in MN,
You received our automated response so that you would know that your inquiry arrived in our email box, and that response means exactly what it states, that:  “We cannot answer all submissions (not by a long shot). But we’ll do the best we can!” 

We also cannot promise additional instant gratification beyond our automated response which should help to clarify the level of expectations that many people have with regards to the internet. 

You don’t have to wait to get a response from us.  You can go about your daily life and perhaps even seek out other resources for providing the answers you seek. 

We actually hope that folks don’t sit by the computer or impatiently watch the screens of their portable communication devices since we get inquiries at all hours of the day from all parts of the world, and we do not staff our site 24 hours a day.

  We can never guarantee that we will be able to answer questions posed to us, and we have no certified authorities, meaning no actual entomologists with degrees who are on our small staff, however, we frequently do have professionals who provide input, identifications, and corrections for us.


With that stated, we will now attempt to the best of our ability to respond to your initial questions.  This is a flying ant, commonly called an Alate, which is the reproductive component of an ant colony. 

There must be a nearby ant nest that results in this nuptial swarm that you witnessed.  Alates, which are virgin queen and newly matured male ants, swarm and leave the colony when conditions are ideal, often on a sunny day following rain. 

They mate and start new colonies.  The swarm should only last a day or two, and if you never noticed the ant nest prior to the swarm, you will probably again return to a state of blissful ignorance of the natural world around you. 

Your individuals look very much like this image we found on Flickr that might be in the genus Lasius, and this account is given for the sighting: 

“Early September must have been the mating season for this ant species. Thousands of alate (wing-bearing) virgin queen and male ants were emerging from nest entrances, warming up their wings.

They climbed up leaves, mounds of earth, stems, and branches before taking to the air in search of mates from another colony.

The countless workers, wingless and small compared to the queens, did not stray far from the winged reproductives and were probably guarding them from predators that would regard the queen’s egg-filled abdomens as nutritious snacks.” 

Here is another image from Minnesota on BugGuide, where the genus is identified as Cornfield Ants or Citronella Ants.  In response to your question “How do I get rid of them?”, we do not provide extermination advice.

Ant Alate

Ant Alate

Letter 4 – Ants

I recently went out onto our concrete porch early this morning to find dozens and dozens of bugs that look sort of like ants but they have wings. Also, two or three of them seem to attach to each other to make a little “train.”

I sprayed a bunch of them with Orange Cleaner and it seemed to kill some of them.

We had a new bag of cat litter sitting on the porch that we haven’t brought inside yet, and it seems that the bag is infested with these bugs now. I live in North Carolina, please help me!!!

Dear Infested,
You probably have an ant swarm, which is the winged nuptial flight of the future kings and queens. Not all ants in a nest are reproductive.

Most are infertile female workers and soldiers. The new kings and queens take flight, often after a rain, and mate in the air which explains the “train” you witnessed.

Then they return to earth, dig a hole (your cat litter was a soft spot that appealed to them), and the new pair set up housekeeping, forming a new colony.

Letter 5 – Ants

Pennsylvania Ants
Location: Near Reinhold, PA
May 15, 2012, 8:56 am
Hi Daniel, hope all is going well! Have you pinned down your date and location for National Moth Week yet? As soon as you do let us know and we can spotlight WTB and the event on the NMW website.

So, I found this cluster of ants on the side of a tussock sedge in a freshwater wetland near Reinhold, PA last week. I was hoping that you can help with the ID and what behavior they are exhibiting. They are pretty cool looking!

Thanks, Dave
Signature: Dave Moskowitz

Ants

Hi Dave,
We believe these are Wood Ants or Field Ants in the genus Formica.  According to BugGuide:  “Known as wood (or forest) ants, field ants or mound ants, depending on habitat preference and nesting habits of the various species.

Most prefer non-flooded, open woodlands, openings in temperate forest, or grasslands. A few (mostly northern) species are more or less specialists in openings in boreal forests, fens or bogs, riparian areas, and a small number of species live in the full shade of closed canopy deciduous or mixed forests.

Nests are built in soil or less often in rotten wood on the ground. The nest may be elevated above the surface as a mound constructed of earth and/or plant fragments.” 

They could possibly be Allegany Mound Ants, Formica exsectoides, though BugGuide does not list fens or bogs as the habitat.  We are not certain what they are doing.


Because of Julian’s schedule, we are doing our national moth week event on Saturday, July 21.  I have had this posted on WTB? for months.  I will do a new posting soon.

2012/02/01/wtb-sponsors-national-moth-week-event-saturday-21-july-2012/

Ants

Thanks on both fronts. The ants were very cool. I tried to go back last week and collect a few but they were gone. Hope you can figure out what they are and we’re doing!

As for your NMW event, if you can send me a little writer about WTB and your event we will post it on the blog and hopefully help promote both. Wish I was closer to actually meeting you guys and grabbing a beer, Dave

David Moskowitz

Letter 6 – Ants Attack Mantis

ants swarming over mantis
Location: Albuquerque, NM
October 25, 2010, 8:51 pm
Hi,
Thanks for identifying the blister beetle picture I sent in a few weeks ago. Today I found a mantis being swarmed by ants on the north side of Albuquerque, NM.

The mantis was struggling and flopping around a bit but I couldn’t tell if the ants were biting it or not. Is this a common occurrence? I found one Flickr image of ants feeding on a dead and somewhat dismembered mantis in Spain, but no other information.

I also didn’t find any example of this type of observation on your site. My hypothesis is that the mantis was sluggish from the cold morning and overpowered by the ants.

Thanks very much!
Signature: Matt

Ants Attack Mantis

Hi Matt,
We suspect that this Mantis may have been injured, though perhaps you are correct that it was just sluggish from the cool weather. 

Ants often forage in hoards and they will not hesitate to begin gathering food for the colony from a still-living creature.  We wish your photo had a higher resolution and that we were able to ascertain the identity of the ant species. 

They look very small and perhaps they are nonnative.  Invasive Ant species like the Argentine Ants in Southern California and the Gulf States are severely affecting biodiversity by replacing native species and we cannot underestimate the long-term effects they may have on sensitive ecosystems.

Hi Daniel,
Thanks for getting back to me. I’ve attached the full-resolution pictures in case the ants can be identified. By the way, is the mantis a Mediterranean Mantis? Thanks!
Matt

On a second look at mantis pictures, it looks more like a California Mantid, Stagmomantis californica. Is this right?
Matt

Ants Attack Mantis

Thanks, Matt.  We are inclined to agree that this does appear to be a California Mantis, or possibly the closely related Stagmomantis limbata which is profiled on BugGuide.  At any rate, the Mantis is a female.

Letter 7 – Ants in Florida, but what species??? Ghost Ants Confirmed

Bug found in bathroom drywall
December 29, 2009
PLEASE help identify the bugs I am finding in my bathroom drywall… They seem to be coming out of one hole, and going into another.

At first, I thought they were termites… The home is a “mobile home” — drywall, very little wood…
Are they dangerous? Should I panic? Why are they in my bathroom ???
Worried.
Florida, USA

Ants

Ghost Ants

Dear Worried,
We tried researching your request, and we are having trouble identifying exactly what species of Ant has moved into your bathroom drywall.  We are going to finally venture a guess that this might represent a Ghost Ant invasion. 

Ghost Ants, Tapinoma melanocephalum are pictured on BugGuide .  The Featured Creatures website has much information, including:  “The ghost ant is highly adaptable in its nesting habits. It nests readily outdoors or indoors. Colonies may be moderate to large in size containing numerous reproducing females (polygyny).

Generally, the colonies occupy local sites that are too small or unstable to support entire large colonies. The sites include tufts of dead but temporarily moist grass, plant stems, and cavities beneath detritus in open, rapidly changing habitats (Oster and Wilson 1978). Indoors, the ant colonizes wall void or spaces between cabinetry and baseboards.” 

We believe the larger ants in your photo may be the queens.  You may also check the Wikipedia page on Ghost Ants.  We are not confident with this identification, and we hope someone will write in to correct or confirm.

Ants

Letter 8 – Ants Move Onto Fence

Ant colony surviving Hurricane Wilma
Just thought you might be interested in seeing how a colony of ants survived Hurricane Wilma in Sebring, Florida. I think they are fire ants, but not positive.
Mike D.
Sebring, Florida

Hi Mike,
Ants sure have a strong survival instinct. During the 1983 El Ni

Letter 9 – Ants on Peony Bud

Subject: I love this website.
Location: Ashland, Oregon
February 17, 2014 7:53 am
Hello again, Daniel! I hope this letter finds you well. 🙂 I was just going through some old photos from last summer in Oregon and wanted to share them with you (a wooly moth, ants on a peony flower, and a yellow jacket in my cabin. )

I think I have the last two photos identified correctly, but just wanted to include them because I like the photos. The first one, however, I’m not really sure about.

I love this little guy though, in my mind he looks like a sweet little sheep or maybe a strange new Star Wars character.
Signature: Rachel

Ants on Peony Bud

Ants on Peony Bud

Hi Rachel,
We are posting your image of Ants on a peony bud because it brings back such fond childhood memories.  Peonies are extremely long lived plants, and there are some plants in our mother’s garden in Ohio that are rumored to be over 100 years old. 

They were brought by family members from Pennsylvania to Ohio, and in about 1960, moved to their current location.  We can recall the sticky buds of the peonies attracting large black ants as well as sweet-loving wasps. 

We remember being told that if the insects didn’t eat off the sticky covering, the buds would not open.  We wish we were able to identify your Ant species.  We will post your moth image in a unique posting.

Thanks, Daniel! 🙂 Here’s another image of the ants on the peony bud, not for identification purposes, but more so just for the fond memories that it brings to both of us! Enjoy!

Ants on Peony Bud

Ants on Peony Bud

Letter 10 – Ants in Urban Los Angeles

Where have all the native Ants gone???
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
January 8, 2014
When we first moved to Mount Washington in 1995, we had not yet begun writing What’s That Bug? and we lived in a rental home several hundred feet away from our current offices. 

Across the street were several vacant lots (two houses were recently built on the site) and there was a sunny south-facing slope. 

We frequently saw large, red Harvester Ants in the street, but it has been at least fifteen years since we have seen any native ants in the neighborhood. 

We were reminded of this because of this posting from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County blog regarding the North Campus urban garden

We wondered why Lila and Leslie had to travel 1000 miles to bring back what should be native ants, so we called Julian Donahue, who despite living on Mount Washington for many decades, has never seen native Ants here. 

Though we do not promote extermination on What’s That Bug?, if we had the opportunity to eradicate anything in our grounds, it would be the invasive Argentine Ant, a species we have battled wherever we have lived in Los Angeles in the past 34 years. 

We believe the Argentine Ant is responsible for crowding out native Harvester Ants in our immediate neighborhood and quite possibly in all of urban Los Angeles. 

Julian also mentioned that we no longer have Horned Lizards locally because they feed on the Harvester Ants.  See California Herps for photos of Horned Lizards.  If you live in Los Angeles, and you have native Harvester Ants, please let us know. 

If you know how to control Argentine Ants, please let us know.

Harvester Ants and larger Velvet Ant

Harvester Ants and larger Velvet Ant

Ed. Note:  We wrote to Lila Higgins and Richard Smart at the Natural History Museum to get their opinion on this matter.  Here is what Richard wrote back.

Hey Daniel,
Lila and I visited a property last July in Tujunga, and there were harvester ants on this homeowner’s property. It appeared to be a healthy colony, but it should be noted that this homeowner had worked really hard to turn his property into a native habitat.

I then checked out the website iNaturalist (which hosts some of our citizen science projects), and found a lot of Harvester Ants (Genus Pogonomyrmex) observations in California. 

Here is a link to a map of the Harvester Ant observations. You can click on the individual place markers to see the observations, and you can zoom in and pan around the map to focus on the Greater L.A. Area.

Lila is traveling to San Diego today for work, so her response may be delayed.
Sincerely,
-Richard

Letter 11 – Argentine Ants invade offices of WTB?

Argentine Ants:  Invasive Exotic Species
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA
September 21, 2012 at 3:55 AM

Argentine Ants

We have stated on more than one occasion that we would love to be able to eradicate the Argentine Ants that have been invading our offices for years, and dating as far back as 1980, the Argentine Ants have invaded the homes of our editorial staff long before What’s That Bug? was even a thought. 

We also state quite clearly on our website that we do not endorse extermination, but we also understand that there are situations that necessitate some type of action. 

Alas, no matter how careful we are about food scraps in the home, each summer brings a new invasion of Argentine Ants.  They enter the premises through the tiniest of cracks, including door jams and window sills, and they seek water and food. 

A single spoon with the tiniest scrap of cat food left in the sink will soon cause hundreds of tiny invaders to swarm the sink.  Removing the source of the food causes the Argentine Ants to scatter and they eventually find new ways to enter the structure. 

Though we are not fond of the Argentine Ants in the garden, we will tolerate them despite them spreading Aphids and Scale Insects from plant to plant. 

Our office cat is a senior citizen that has become quite the finicky eater, and we cannot expect the poor old feline to clean its dish. 

Our beloved companion also vomits with some degree of frequency and both of these behavioral traits are very attractive to the Argentine Ant patrols that quickly return to the nest with news of a bounteous feast, and the invasions begin anew.

We have finally decided that we need to take some action, and we are about to test a new ant bait product that is used in traps. 

Our big concern with using more traditional pesticides is that they are not selective and we do not want to harm the spiders, house centipedes, and occasional odd visitors that wander in waiting to be humanely removed back to the outdoors. 

We hope we do not alarm our readership.  We still do not endorse extermination, but we have to deal with our own Argentine Ant problem before we are totally overrun.  We will keep you posted regarding the results of our product testing.

Argentine Ants with cat vomit

Advice from Julie:  Honey Pot
Subject: Ants
Location: your place
October 23, 2012, 3:53 pm
I don’t know if it will work with the Argentine Ants or not, but when we lived in California, we had a consistent ant problem. We finally solved it at Costco — with a gallon jug of honey.

We left it open, on our porch, and ran a short trail from our back steps to the jug. Took them about a week to completely disappear from the house.

We had to replace the jug every 5-6 months, but the cost was far less than a pesticide, plus it was an interesting science lesson for the kids.
Hoping it works for you,
Julie
Signature: Julie

Hi Julie,
If you lived in Southern California, the problems you had with Ants were most likely Argentine Ants.  We also heard that mixing yeast with honey works very effectively because the yeast expands inside the ants, killing them. 

They also spread the honey/yeast mixture in the colony, effectively killing the colony as well.  Leaving an entire honey jar outside might attract raccoons in our area, but thanks for the tip.

Letter 12 – Argentine Ants Swarming in Los Angeles

Subject: Los Angeles: black tiny fly likes water w short clear wings
Location: Los Angeles, CA
April 28, 2015 10:33 pm
Hi,
Thank you so much for all of your service throughout the years. I often make donations & spread the word!
This latest bug is stumping me: We live in east Los Angeles near Pasadena & the SGV (inland)- tonight I noticed approx 20-30 fruit-fly-esque bugs dead or dying in the bathroom sink.

They seemed to be coming in through a tiny opening in the bathroom window, so my husband went to the roof to check it out. He said there are thousands on our roof!! He’s spraying now but we can’t find anything similar-looking enough online.

They seem to obviously be attracted to water but do not look like drain bugs.
PLEASE HELP!
(We’re so worried they’re termites but they don’t have long wings)
Signature: Gratefully, Meg

Argentine Ant Alate

Argentine Ant Alate

Dear Meg,
The person who can solve your infestation problem will probably win a Nobel Peace Prize as the solution will improve the quality of life for Californians, the people of Japan, and the inhabitants of the Mediterranean.

Those are the three places where super-colonies of Argentine Ants,  Linepithema humile, are making millions of people’s lives miserable, especially in hot summer months when 1000s of Argentine Ants invade homes in search of food and water. 

Your images are of the winged reproductive queen and king Argentine Ants, known as alates, on their nuptial flight according to BugGuide

“Winged queens mate once with a winged male, after which they can continuously produce fertile eggs for as long as 10 years- until death.

Unlike most ants, several productive queens of this species can share the same colony, with one or more leaving with some of the workers to form a new colony when it gets crowded (this is known as ‘budding’).” 

Here are some good images on BugGuide for comparison.

Argentine Ant Alates

Argentine Ant Alates

Letter 13 – Argentine Sugar Ant Question

big ant in line with smaller ants?
Sun, Oct 26, 2008 at 10:03 PM
Hi,
Every summer ants find their way into my house, and I’ve noticed for the past couple of years that there’s often a single larger/longer ant among the line of regular smaller ones.

Always just one though. Who is this guy & what does he do? Usually, the bigger ant is about 2-3 times the size of the others with an extra long abdomen and moves slower.

The one in the pictures from this year has a shorter/more proportional abdomen than others I’ve seen, moved faster, and behaved differently than other “big brother” ants in the past — instead of lumbering along in line with the others back and forth, this year’s walked for a bit then stayed in one spot, where the smaller ants congregated around it every so often.

In the past, the bigger and hasn’t behaved any differently than the others, except for moving slower.

I couldn’t find any information on the internet about this (maybe because I wasn’t sure what to search for!) so any info would be appreciated. I just want to know why it’s so huge!

thanks!
Michele.
los angeles, ca

Argentine Ants

Argentine Ants

Hi Michele,
We have always called these Argentine Sugar Ants, but Charles Hogue calls them simply Argentine Ants in his book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin.

We have been meaning to photograph our own home invasions, but never seem to have a camera ready when 100s of ants discover bits of food in the sink or the cat food.

We can honestly say that no species of insect annoys us more than the Argentine Ant, Iridomyrmex humilis or Linepithema humile according to BugGuide, and may one day post some of our anecdotes about various funny home invasions in years past.

Here is what Hogue writes about this species. “This is our most common ant, the little blackish species (its length is 1/8 in., or 3 mm) that invades our homes and yards in search of food and water.

Abundant in urban areas, it develops to prodigious numbers, and single colonies may harbor thousands of workers.

It often becomes particularly noxious at the onset of cool weather in the fall, when colonies converge and move to sheltered, warmer quarters under homes, and foraging columns begin to seek food indoors.

The Argentine Ant is, as its name suggests, native to South America (Argentina and Brazil), and it is an undesirable alien in our country.

It was apparently introduced into New Orleans before 1891 in coffee shipments from Brazil, and it has since spread rapidly over much of the United States. The species is one of the most presistent and troublesome of all our house-infesting ants.

Argentine Ant workers seek out and feed on almost every type of food, although they are especially fond of sweets.

Making themselves most objectionable, the ants invade the house through minute crevices and cracks — filing along baseboards, across sinks, and over walls and tables in endless trails. they also have another undesirable habit: by protecting and tending scale insects and aphids, worker ants foster these injurious garden pests.

Shallow nests are made in the ground, often under rocks or wood; the galleries extend only to depths of 6 to 7 inches (15 to 18 cm) below the surface. there may be a number of queens in a single colony.

The Argentine Ant is a highly competitive species and is quick to exterminate other species of ants, including natives, in territory that it has just invaded this ant has no sting; its bite is feeble but can be felt.” Many ants have a caste system with soldier ants. We are uncertain if the Argentine Ant has soldier ants.

Perhaps a reader can provide that information. We suspect, as this is the onset of cooler weather, your larger ant may be a queen in search of a new home. We have noticed a similar situation with a single larger ant in our own home invasions.

BugGuide supports that with this information: “Winged queens mate once with a winged male, after which they can continuously produce fertile eggs for as long as 10 years- until death.

Unlike most ants, several productive queens of this species can share the same colony, with one or more leaving with some of the workers to form a new colony when it gets crowded (this is known as ‘budding’).”

Argentine Ants

Argentine Ants

Letter 14 – Argentine Sugar Ants Share Pizza

Hello bug man I have a contender for the worst bug story ever from Atlanta GA
So, I do work for a pest control company, but in my own heart I am very much a live and let-live person and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your site!

Certain pests (German cockroaches, brown recluses, things like that) I am against, but I do believe there are many beneficial and beautiful pests in nature and in our homes.

Well, when I was about 15 we lived in a small trailer in a trailer park outside of Atlanta GA. I happened to be home by myself one night and my mother had left me some money to order pizza.

I ordered the pizza and ate a few slices, then left it sitting on the counter. I was sitting in the dark, watching music videos on MTV when I went to go get another slice. I grabbed one out of the box and took a bite.

It tasted weird, it smelt weird and suddenly I realized there were things crawling all over my face and arms and I had no idea what it was.

I ran to the sink and immediately started throwing up and trying to rinse off my face and arms, as soon as I switched the light on I saw there were millions of the little sugar ants crawling all over my pizza.

They were crawling all over my face and arms and when I say millions, I mean MILLIONS!! To this day I will accidentally smush an ant and the very familiar smell causes my stomach to dry heave.

I threw the pizza in the sink and frantically tried to rinse off my face and arms, when my panic finally subsided I opened the pizza box on the counter and it was infested with ants.

In a matter of a house, they had completely covered my pizza. Needless to say, I never ate anything that I had left sitting on the counter without thoroughly checking it 1st again.

Thanks!!
Jacklyn D. Warren-Gregg

Hi Jacklyn,
We have our own collection of personal reasons the imported Argentine Sugar Ant is our own most reviled insect.

One winter after a significant El Niño storm in the 1980s, Argentine Ants had their nest flooded by all the water and they entered the home of our editorial staff long before we began What’s That Bug?

They moved into the box spring that was on the floor.  The starving student that we were, we slept on a twin mattress atop the box spring without any bed frame.  We awoke covered in Argentine Ants and spent the rest of the night sleepless. 

The next day after the rain subsided, we took the box spring outside and waited until the ants moved out.  Argentine Ant invasions in that particular rental were the worst that we have ever encountered, however, we have been troubled by Argentine Ants wherever we have lived or worked in Los Angeles.

Letter 15 – Allegeny Mound Ants

Subject:  Allegheny Mound Ants
The geographic location of the bug:  Lewis Center Ohio
Date: 07/18/2021
Time: 09:39 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Found these cool ants while out picking blackberries today July 18th.  I had no idea we have large mounds forming ants here!   

Hope to watch this mound grow it was about a foot across.
How you want your letter signed:  Jennifer Huffman

Allegeny Mound Ant

Dear Jennifer,
Daniel grew up just outside of Youngstown, and back in the 60s, he remembers encountering many Ant Mounds in vacant lots.  They would often get to over a foot tall and two feet across. 

With the building of many homes beginning in the 60s, many of those empty lots have been developed and there does not tend to be room for Allegheny Mound Ants in landscaped yards. 

According to BugGuide:  “The nest architecture is distinctive — large (often >1m.), rounded, subconical, primarily earthen mounds. ”  An entertaining article in the Columbus Dispatch documents exploring an ant mound with a borescope to view inside with a camera.

Thanks for sending in your excellent images.  Daniel will be in Ohio next week and he anticipates seeing lightning bugs and picking blackberries.

Allegeny Mound Ant Nest

Hope Daniel has a wonderful time; it’s been a great year for berries here.  Cute article from the Dispatch!
Jennifer

Allegeny Mound Ants

Authors

  • Daniel Marlos

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

19 thoughts on “Ant Bite vs Spider Bite: Key Differences Explained”

  1. Hi worried,

    The pic is great but still hard to tell. The antenna are right for ghost ant but the coloration doesn’t seem to jive but it still could be. For a quick answer try crushing one or two and see if you get a ‘rotten’ smell almost like coconuts. Then it is ghost ants. If the smell is kinda fruity then it is ‘white footed ant’ but I really doubt that.
    (the coloration is really throwing me)
    Either way it’s time for caulk and bait. Ghost ants change diets from time to time but terro liquid is good to start. Caulk or seal as many cracks as you can and reduce moisture in anyway possible. Maybe they’ll get the hint. They are very difficult to eradicate so stay strong.

    Reply
  2. Sadly, harvester ants and horned lizards are in decline in Texas also. I once saw mourning doves “anting”, placing harvester ants under the feathers on their wings. Apparently the harvester ants eat the birds’ lice. Amazing symbiosis!
    The last harvester ant city I have seen was at the edge of the sand dunes at Port Aransas, Texas, in Dec 2013. It was great to see a healthy community of harvesters.
    I read that the invasive fire ants may be the culprit for harvester ant decline in Texas.
    Fire ants are dangerous because they swarm and inflict many stings when disturbed. I confess to using a commercial ant bait that the workers carry to the queen; we sprinkle the granules on the fire ant mound, and the ants are gone within a few days. Sometimes a second or third mound pop up nearby and we repeat the process.
    I normally dislike using chemicals on the lawn or garden, but fire ants are dangerous, so I make an exception for them.
    Good luck in your battle with your invasive ants.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your information Ellen. Even though we do not promote extermination, sometimes drastic measures are required for invasive species.

      Reply
  3. Sadly, harvester ants and horned lizards are in decline in Texas also. I once saw mourning doves “anting”, placing harvester ants under the feathers on their wings. Apparently the harvester ants eat the birds’ lice. Amazing symbiosis!
    The last harvester ant city I have seen was at the edge of the sand dunes at Port Aransas, Texas, in Dec 2013. It was great to see a healthy community of harvesters.
    I read that the invasive fire ants may be the culprit for harvester ant decline in Texas.
    Fire ants are dangerous because they swarm and inflict many stings when disturbed. I confess to using a commercial ant bait that the workers carry to the queen; we sprinkle the granules on the fire ant mound, and the ants are gone within a few days. Sometimes a second or third mound pop up nearby and we repeat the process.
    I normally dislike using chemicals on the lawn or garden, but fire ants are dangerous, so I make an exception for them.
    Good luck in your battle with your invasive ants.

    Reply
  4. Curious now, I looked up “anting”, and resources vary in the explanation for this widespread bird behavior, but many ornithologists believe that the birds pick up ants for the formic acid release, which acts as bug/mite repellent. A few believe the ants eat mites, which is what I had read in my bird guide. Birds are fascinating.
    Here is a link to a conference on ants to be held in Palm Springs, CA in 2014. Do you need a few days in Palm Springs to study ants? 🙂 I think it sounds so cool:
    http://www.extension.org/pages/19257/imported-fire-ant-and-invasive-pest-ant-conference#.UtDosfRDuSo

    Reply
  5. Curious now, I looked up “anting”, and resources vary in the explanation for this widespread bird behavior, but many ornithologists believe that the birds pick up ants for the formic acid release, which acts as bug/mite repellent. A few believe the ants eat mites, which is what I had read in my bird guide. Birds are fascinating.
    Here is a link to a conference on ants to be held in Palm Springs, CA in 2014. Do you need a few days in Palm Springs to study ants? 🙂 I think it sounds so cool:
    http://www.extension.org/pages/19257/imported-fire-ant-and-invasive-pest-ant-conference#.UtDosfRDuSo

    Reply
  6. Hi, I can help you with the ants found in Na’s pool. After much frustration (screen upon screen full of these ants) and research I found out that these are rover ants. They breed in the soil around trees and especially love water. The males are very tiny. They fit easily through screening and for some reason like to commit suicide in my pool. The females are 4 times the size of the males with a large, striped back portion. They run from outside my lanai straight for the pool and drop in to die. Sometimes there are so many flying males on top of our lanai that we have used a blower to get them to fall down AWAY from the lanai. I have tried burning citronella candles whenever I see them starting to gather in the pool. That works a little bit. They also cannot fight against the wind so if you blow fans toward the outside of your pool area, that can keep them out too.

    Reply
  7. Somewhere along the trails of Lake Balboa Park I have once stumbled upon a nest of harvester ants. Not only at that particular spot but also at another park across the street. Is it me or I am having a feeling they are slowly reemerging? I have photos if anyone is interested.

    Reply
  8. Argentine Ants are a seasonal, irritating problem in my home (Fullerton CA) from early spring to late fall. We dispose of all recyclables and trash contaminated with any foodstuff or digestive stuff (including used napkins) in containers on the patio, not in the house. We are obsessively diligent, however this year they invaded our side by side refrigerator, dying in a little heap in the freezer next to what was a tiny hole in the gasket. The only thing we could find was some spilled frozen creamer under the bin at the bottom of the freezer that maybe attracted them. We wiped down the hoards (with water) three times and they finally stopped! We do not use any pesticides in or out of the house and have found that the syrup/boric acid (?) bait only sporadically effective, however will try again next year. All pantry and pet foods are sealed in ant-proof containers, but those little buggers are persistent and will find any dead bug or overlooked pet crumb anywhere in your house!

    Reply

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