Ants are one of the most common insects found in and around our homes. But, do ants bite?
The answer depends on the species of ants in question. Some ants do have the ability to bite, while others may sting or leave you unharmed altogether.
Common household ants, like the velvety tree ant, can be aggressive biters.
On the other hand, stinging ants such as native fire ants and harvester ants are mostly found outdoors.
It’s important to note, though, that not all ants are harmful, and their bites or stings can vary in intensity.
Do Ants Bite? : Types of Ants That Bite
Fire ants are known for their aggressive behavior and painful stings. They have a reddish-brown color and can be found in the southern United States.
- Sting symptoms: burning, itching, swelling
- Potentially dangerous for allergic individuals
Carpenter ants are large, black, or reddish ants that nest in wood. They don’t sting but can bite, causing mild discomfort.
- Bite symptoms: minor pain, redness
- May cause structural damage to wooden buildings
Field ants are common in yards and gardens. They have a diverse range of colors and sizes. They can bite and spray formic acid, causing a burning sensation.
- Bite symptoms: stinging, burning feeling
- Found in lawns and fields
Pavement ants are small, brown or black ants commonly found near sidewalks or driveways. They bite but usually aren’t considered harmful to humans.
- Bite symptoms: mild pain, minor irritation
- Common in urban environments
Acrobat ants are small, shiny black ants named for their habit of raising their abdomen when threatened. They can bite but are more likely to run away.
- Bite symptoms: minor pain, slight irritation
- Less aggressive than other species
|Southern United States
|Mild pain, redness
|United States, Canada
|Mild pain, minor irritation
|Minor pain, slight irritation
Identifying Ant Bites
Ant bites often cause redness and swelling but may vary in appearance, depending on the type of ant. Some common features include:
- Small, red spot
- White pustule or blister
- Raised welt
For example, bites from fire ants are usually characterized by a red spot surrounded by a white pustule.
The symptoms of an ant bite can range from mild to severe. They may include:
- Pain, which could be mild or painful
- Itching or stinging sensation
Ant bites are generally harmless, especially those from common household ants.
However, a small percentage of people may experience more severe reactions to ant venom, especially if they are allergic to the venom. In these cases, seek medical attention immediately.
|Harmless Ant Bite
|Painful Ant Bite
First Aid and Treatment
If you are bitten by an ant, the first step is to:
- Wash the affected area with soap and water to remove any remaining venom and prevent infection from the ant’s mandibles.
- Apply a cold compress or ice to reduce swelling, redness, and discomfort.
For minor ant bites and stings, over-the-counter treatments can help alleviate symptoms:
- Antihistamines can reduce itching and redness, as well as help control any allergic reactions.
- Hydrocortisone creams can help relieve itching, inflammation, and redness.
When to Seek Medical Help
In some cases, ant bites or stings can cause more severe reactions. Seek medical help if you experience any of the following:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Rapid heart rate
- Swelling of the lips, throat, or face
- Severe itching, hives, or rashes
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever
These symptoms can indicate a serious reaction, such as anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock, which requires immediate medical attention.
For example, a fire ant sting can be more painful and venomous than other ant bites.
If you are bitten by a fire ant and experience severe pain, rapid heart rate, or difficulty breathing, seek medical help right away.
|Ant Bite/Sting Symptoms
|When to Seek Medical Help
|Severe itching, hives
|Ice, cold compress
|Swelling of face, throat
|Mild allergic reaction
Prevention and Protection
When engaging in outdoor activities, take precautions to avoid contact with ant species that bite.
Keep an eye out for ant mounds or nests, especially when in the garden or wooded areas in the United States, where some harmful species are prevalent. Here are some tips to avoid ant bites:
- Wear protective clothing (e.g., long pants and closed-toe shoes)
- Apply insect repellent containing DEET
- Avoid disturbing ant mounds or nests
In and Around the Home
To prevent ants from entering your home and protect yourself from potential bites, follow these guidelines:
- Seal gaps and cracks around doors, windows, and the foundation
- Keep food in tightly sealed containers
- Clean surfaces regularly to remove crumbs and food residues
- Repair water leaks promptly
- Remove or treat decaying wood, as some ant species build nests in wood
Comparison table: Harmful vs. Harmless Ant Species
|Harmful Ant Species
|Harmless Ant Species
|Odorous house ants
In case of an ant bite, which may cause itching or infection, make sure to clean the affected area with soap and water.
If you experience a severe allergic reaction or multiple bites, seek medical treatment immediately. Keep an eye on allergies as some people may take up to a week to show symptoms after an ant bite.
By following the prevention tips for outdoor activities and in and around the home, you can minimize the risk of ant bites and enjoy a more comfortable living environment.
In conclusion, aome ants bite, some sting, some spray acid, and some do none of these. Ant bites and stings can cause pain, swelling, itching, and allergic reactions in humans.
Ants bite and sting for various reasons, such as defense, predation, communication, or competition.
Ants are important animals that have ecological and economic impacts. They are diverse and fascinating creatures that can be both friends and foes to humans.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about ant bites. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Eating Maggots with your Raisins
Bug horror story
Location: Stuttgart, Arkansas
August 9, 2011 1:52 pm
I was grocery shopping one night with my two daughters. The youngest saw raisins, and wanted them, so I bought a 6 pack of individual serving boxes.
We got to the car, loaded the groceries, and dug out the package of raisins. I stripped off the cellophane and handed her a box, and drove on home. Within 3 minutes, she wanted more, so I gave her another box. I decided to munch on one myself.
I opened my box, and tumped a few into my mouth. By the second bite, I noticed they didn’t taste quite right. My older daughter turned on the light, and poured the raisins into her hand. Imagine my utter disgust when I saw her hand was full of half-eaten raisins, and living maggots.
I have not been able to eat raisins since…
Since this form requires me to attach a photo, even though I don’t have one relevant to the story, please enjoy my image of ants devouring a pecan.
Signature: Grossed out in Arkansas
Hi Grossed out in Arkansas,
We sympathize with your trauma. We hope your individual box was the only one infested with maggots. Your letter is definitely worthy of tagging as Worst Bug Stories Ever!!!
It is worth noting that maggots are consumed in some cultures, and we doubt that there will be any negative health ramification other than the psychological trauma. Your ant photo, though not related to the raisin story, could in itself provide the narrative element for another Worst Bug Story Ever.
ALL of the boxes had maggots….. Ants are my phobia, but even I thought the ants devouring the pecan was pretty cool. But I won’t be eating any pecans from my yard anytime soon since I know I have ants that like them!
Hi again Grossed out in Arkansas,
Perhaps you are raising an entomophage, a person who likes to eat insects. If it is any consolation, we suspect what you mistook for maggots was more likely the grubs of a beetle like a Drugstore Beetle or other species of beetle that commonly infests stored food products. Maggots are fly larvae and they would be more likely to be found in garbage that contains putrefying flesh or rotting vegetable matter.
Letter 2 – Driver Ant, AKA Sausage Fly from Rwanda
Subject: Flying bug from rwanda
Location: Kigali, rwanda
December 7, 2016 4:31 am
I curious what this is. It was attracted to light and seemed to lose their ability to fly.
I understand some locals eat it and call it inanani, but I can’t find anything online about it.
This interesting creature is a Sausage Fly, a male Driver Ant in the genus Dorylus. We have a lengthy explanation about it in this Sausage Fly posting from our archives. According to Myrmecos:
“Most people who see Africa’s ‘sausage flies’ wouldn’t pick that they are actually ants. In fact, these monstrous insects are males of the common Dorylus driver ants. They fly at night to gain a chance to mate with a queen from another colony.”
We could not locate any information on “inanani” but we are really appreciative that you informed us they are eaten by locals.
Letter 3 – Ghost Ants in Potted Plant
Subject: Unknown bug
Location: Gainesville, FL
December 13, 2016 9:34 am
I found this swarm of little bugs after trying to watery cactus. There’s was thousands of them! All over the cactus! I don’t know what they are. Can you help? They were livingin the soul and carrying either eggs or larvae when I disturbed them.
Signature: Trevor Forrest
The behavior you describe, “carrying either eggs or larvae when I disturbed them”, implies they are social insects like Ants, but the image you provided appears more like Booklice in the genus Liposcelis which is pictured on BugGuide.
Alas, two of your attached images are too blurry to ascertain any details, and the third image does not provide a large enough view to be certain. According to BugGuide, Booklice are found:
“worldwide and across NA; many spp. are now nearly cosmopolitan or otherwise widely spread through agency of man, mostly with stored products(” and their habitat is “under bark, in ant nests, in homes” which makes sense based on your account.
Booklice are considered benign unless they are plentiful enough to present a nuisance, or if they infest stored food products. Since you seem pretty certain they were transporting eggs and larvae, we suspect they are most likely Ghost Ants, Tapinoma melanocephalum, which are also pictured on BugGuide and according to BugGuide:
“native to the Old World tropics, adventive elsewhere; in our area, established in FL (expanding) and reached TX in mid-1990s (prob. through Galveston on a shipment of plants from FL); infestations reported in many areas as far north as MB, but in cooler areas the ant can only survive indoors (greenhouses, etc.)” We would favor the Ghost Ant ID. If you get better images, please submit them. Because we will be away from the office during the holidays, we are postdating your submission to go live at the end of the month.
Thank you for the info. I’m not quite sure they are either. I tried to get better pictures, but they were moving really fast and everything came out blurry. I looked now and they are all back from where they came in the soil of the cactus. They did leave behind a bunch tiny white balls on the surface though.
Letter 4 – California Harvester Ants on Red Car Property
Subject: Swarming Dragonflies
Location: Corralitas Red Car Property, Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California
July 15, 2014 11:03 AM
This morning on our walk of the Corralitas Red Car Property with Diane, we also saw several California Harvester Ant nests, including this very active site. California Harvester Ants are indicator species which is defined by Encyclopedia Britannica as being an:
“organism—often a microorganism or a plant—that serves as a measure of the environmental conditions that exist in a given locale.”
The disappearance of California Harvester Ants in Los Angeles is directly related to the loss of open space due to overdevelopment, and as the California Harvester Ant is a primary source of food for Horned Lizards, they have also vanished from our local ecosystems.
Letter 5 – Check out this Ant Website
Please can you link to this new ant site
Tim Holtom to bugman, danielj
show details 8:00 AM (12 hours ago)
Subject: Please can you link to this new ant site
December 8, 2010 11:00 am
Hi, I have a web site link suggestion.
I will provide reciprocal links =)
Signature: Tim Holtom
We got tremendous glee out of linking to your website from four different phrases in your email.
We wonder if you can tell us what kind of ants are preying upon the Preying Mantis in the photo from our archives that we posted to accompany your email since you did not provide a photo.
Just put a comment on the featured post advertising your new website. We hope our readership doesn’t crash your server.
Letter 6 – Cow Killer: Handle with Care!!!
Thought you might like this
I’ve attached a picture that we took of a “Cow-killer”, aka “Velvet ant”. Thought you might like it.
We will happily post your photo, but we need to caution our readers not to mishandle this female Velvet Wasp as she can deliver a painful sting if provoked.
Letter 7 – Crematogaster Ants from Kenya
Crematogaster Ants on Whistling Thorn
Location: Masai Mara, Kenya
December 23, 2010 1:25 pm
One of the favourite stories field guides love to tell guests here in Kenya is about the mutualistic relationship between Crematogaster sp. ants and the Whistling Thorn (Acacia drepanolobium).
The tree provides a home for the ants in its bloated, hollow galls (see picture), and the ants provide protection from herbivores (often Giraffe) by attacking the herbivore when it comes to feed on the tree.
One just has to brush past the tree to get the ants excited and running around like crazy.
However, a while ago, I found a very interesting article showing that the relationship may not be completely mutualistic. Go to the following link and scroll down to the yellow box titled:
”Whistling Thorn Symbiosis May Be One-Sided” http://waynesword.palomar.edu/acacia.htm
Whatever the case, it’ll never cease to fascinate me!
Hi Again Zarek,
You sure are keeping us busy posting all of your awesome images from Kenya. Thanks for the image of the Crematogaster Ants as well as the link and the personal observations.
Letter 8 – Ikebana with Black Walnut, Wisteria and Fuschia
Argentine Ants were swarming the wisteria.
What caused this branch to turn yellow? Might this endangered California Black Walnut Tree have 1000 Cankers Disease?
This Ikebana looks much prettier with natural light. We spent quite some time today indulging ourselves and working in the garden.
Letter 9 – Kleptoparasitic Flies from Australia pilfer an Ant from an Ant Hunter Spider
Thu, Mar 19, 2009 at 2:37 AM
I got this photo of tiny flies trying to get to the ant captured by this jumping spider. Apparently they are Milichiidae (Diptera, Schizophora) some of which are kleptoparasitic of spiders, some specialising in ant snacks such as this one.
The spider is a female Salticid, Zenodorus orbiculatus known locally as ant hunters. She is about 7mm long so you can see how tiny those flies are.
Though you have a long history of providing our site with awesome images of Australian fauna, this image is, in our opinion, one of the most fascinating. The fact that you captured this nuanced example of Kleptoparasitism is phenomenal.
One animal stealing food or prey from another is common in the animal kingdom, and it is easily observed in our own brand new aquarium, but to photograph these minuscule creatures evolutionarily adapted to this activity is nothing short of fantastic.
The Milichiidae (Diptera, Schizophora) are small, mostly black acalyptrate flies. The family contains about 240 described species in 19 genera and is worldwide in distribution.
The behavior of several species of Milichiidae is very specialized. For example, in some species the adults are myrmecophilous (= ant-loving), whilst in some others they are kleptoparasitic, feeding on the prey of spiders or predaceous insects.
The habitats of Milichiidae are diverse. Adults can be collected in open landscapes, such as steppes or meadows, in wadis, at the edges of forests, inside forests, in the forest canopy, in stables or houses, or even in caves. However, they do not seem to be attracted to coastal habitats or to other places near water.
The Milichiidae are divided into three subfamilies, Madizinae, Milichiinae, and Phyllomyzinae.
Common names are only rarely cited for Milichiidae and seem to be more of an invention of the author than a commonly used name. The English term “filth flies”, for example, which is sometimes used for Milichiidae, was introduced by Sabrosky (1959) in the title of a paper about the genus Meoneura , which now belongs to the family Carnidae.
Sabrosky probably used the general expression “filth fly” to describe the biology rather than intending the term to be a common name for the family Milichiidae. The term “filth flies” is generally used for several different taxa associated with ‘filth’.
Since people keep stumbling over the name ‘Milichiidae, I herewith introduce a new english common name: “freeloader flies”. The name refers to the biology of Milichiidae. Definitions for ‘freeloader’ are: ‘ someone who takes advantage of the generosity of others’ ( wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn ) or ‘ one who depends on another for support without reciprocating’ ( http://www.answers.com ). “
Correction: Mon Mar 23, 2009 7:08:13 AM America/Los_Angeles
thanks for alerting me to your photo and citing my webpage. However, I
discussed it with a collegue of mine and we both think that your flies
are Chloropidae, not Milichiidae.
Michael von Tschirnhaus is a Chloropidae specialist and has more experience with actually watching the live flies than I have. He wrote to me that from the habitus the flies are certainly Chloropidae.
There are several species who are kleptoparasitic on spiders. He doesn’t know all Australian genera, so he
can’t tell you which genus it is. Many species of different genera
develop in spider cocons and stay with the spider for a longer period of
time. They can wait endless in the spider net.
Letter 10 – Legionary Ant
Subject: Sawfly or ant drone?
Location: Brazos County, Texas, USA
March 27, 2016 4:37 pm
Hello! I had asked Texas A&M as well but I’ll ask here as well. We did a catch-and-release of what looked like a sawfly last night (well, failed release because the door was still open and it flew back into the light, so we’re still checking the house for a body).
My stepfather is still moving his own photos and videos off his cameras, but the jaws seem to match a sawfly, the eyes seemed proportionately large, and the thorax was prominently hunched. I compared to other photos I saw of sawflies, but the abdomen was longer. It was maybe an inch and a half long.
A&M agreed that it looked like a sawfly, so we narrowed down our own image searches for an exact match; but when we did happen to find an exact match, the page did not say “sawfly,” it said “red driver ant.” We looked that insect up, and it did indeed match the dorylus drone perfectly… except, that’s an African army ant… so now I’m really hoping we didn’t just catch and release evidence of an invasive species.
Any input you have will be greatly appreciated, and if you respond, I’ll try to send you the macros from my stepfather as soon as possible.
Signature: M. Sidney Beal
Dear M. Sidney Beal,
Please forgive us the long delay. Our tiny staff cannot answer all the mail we receive and we are currently going through older identification requests for interesting postings, and your posting has us quite excited.
We are also struck by the resemblance to the Middle Eastern Sausage Fly, a male Driver Ant in the genus Dorylus. Searching that lead, we believe this is a male Legionary Ant in the genus Neivamyrmex, based on this and other images posted to BugGuide.
According to BugGuide, Legionary Ants and other Army Ants in the Tribe Ecitonini have “huge, wingless queens and wasplike males unlike those of any other ants.” We would not discount that it is another member of the family, but the Legionary Ants seem to be the most common.
This is actually great timing! My suspicions were right that it died inside the house, and my stepfather just today found the body. Minus one antenna, it seems to be otherwise intact, and we now have it in a jar for safekeeping.
When we have new photos taken, I’ll forward any my family sends me.
After I last responded to A&M, their ant expert also seemed to agree that it’s most likey a neivamyrmex. Thank you for responding.
Letter 11 – Male Driver Ant or Sausage Fly from Algeria
Subject: Winged insect, big, drowsy and erratic behavior.
Geographic location of the bug: Algiers’ countryside, Algeria. (North Africa)
Time: 11:57 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello sir/madam bugman.
Tonight is a windy night and I left the window open yet the light was off. After I closed the window and turned the light on, I noticed something moving on the floor, and it was the insect of which I am joining pictures to this letter.
Its movement were “goofy” and when I put it on a sheet of paper I noticed that its legs did not stick well to paper, I mean, it fell off as the angle or the slope of the sheet gets stiffer. And also,it tends to roll its abdomen a lot.
I mean no offense to you or to that creature, but I don’t like it. I swear though, I didn’t kill it, I released it to the outside.
Thanks in advance.
I love you.
How you want your letter signed: Ahmed B. Otsmane
Luckily, we have now identified male Driver Ants or Sausage Flies enough times that we only need to link to our own archives, but the first time we received an identification request for this very unusual insect, we were quite puzzled ourselves.
According to Alex Wild on his Diversity of Insects website: “Dorylus is an African and Asian genus of nomadic predatory ants. The surface-foraging species conduct spectacular raids and are often referred to as driver or safari ants.” Because of your catch and release actions, we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.
Letter 12 – Mantis Devours Ant: Food Chain
Hey, i just got this beauty the other day. I am so excited i started looking all over the place for more pictures and info on other matis! your website is incredible and the mantis pics are awsome! my friend took this picture of my baby eating a ant from the recycling bin.
He just tore that thing in half! I also heard that if you take them out periodiically and let them walk on you they become more used to it as they get older, but the other day when i tried it jumped a good six inches to my other hand and i freaked out.
Its so small, i dont want to loose it. Will they always jump like that and how should i keep it under control next time? Also, is there any way to tell what kind of mantis it is, or what it might look like when it matures?
Mantises cannot be truly tamed. They will jump and when they mature and grow wings, they will fly away. We cannot tell exactly what species you have at this point. Thanks for the great image.
Letter 13 – Mealybugs and Argentine Ants
Subject: Boring insect larvae in SoCal Mimosa tree
Location: Escondido, California
March 22, 2015 4:13 pm
We planted a Mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin, a.k.a. Silk Tree) 6 weeks ago, and it just started budding out during the recent warm weather. Unfortunately, we are also now seeing insect larvae coming out of some of the small branches.
Now that we know what to look for, we see dried up wounds in other parts of the tree, presumably from a previous season’s larval activity. The attached photo, showing active larvae, is of a branch about 1/2 inch in diameter. Can you identify this insect, and do you know of any treatment?
We are in Escondido, CA, which is 20 miles north of San Diego and 10 miles inland.
Signature: Joe Rowley
It appears that is a vile Argentine Ant in attendance. The invasive, exotic Argentine Ant will move plant parasitic Hemipterans from plant to plant, and they tend to them and protect them. We believe the plant was damaged, and the wound provided a food source for the nutrient sucking Mealybugs.