Ant bites are not the most dangerous bites a person can be subjected to but they do have their negative effects and risks. Some ant bites can cause especially nasty allergic reactions, pain, and itching, and in rare cases can even be life-threatening.
Do ants bite or sting?
The short answer to this is “Yes and yes”. The slightly longer answer is that it depends on the different species of ants.
About 71% of the over 16,000 species of ants on the planet can sting a potent venom that consists of mostly formic acid. And almost all species of ants have powerful mandibles that they can use to bite. Biting humans, however, is a behavior that we don’t see from many ants as most of them see us as too big to be worth biting and instead prefer to flee. Nevertheless, you can expect some black ant bites, carpenter ant bites or sugar ant bites if you try to bother these and other species.
It’s worth noting that a lot of time people – including industry professionals – will talk about “fire ant bites” and other types of ant bites but they’ll actually mean ant stings. That’s likely because it’s more intuitive for the general public to refer to all insect damage to us as “bites”, plus there is little practical difference – it hurts and if venom was involved, it can be harmful.
Why do ants bite or sting?
When it comes to humans, the main reason ants bite us is in self-defense. Ants are omnivorous and a lot of them are predatory but humans aren’t exactly something ants prey on. If an ant bites or stings you, it is most likely that it has deemed you as a threat to itself or to its colony. But as ant nests aren’t always easily visible it’s not uncommon for people to sit on or next to an ant colony and to accidentally provoke the ants to defend themselves.
Do all ants bite or sting humans?
While almost all ants have strong mandibles that can be used for biting and while the majority of them can also sting, most of them aren’t eager to bite or sting humans. Ants tend to recognize that we are too big for them and prefer to ignore us or to flee from us. Still, even the timidest ant colony would usually mount up a counter-offensive if you outright step in or on top of their anthill and nest.
It should be mentioned, of course, that certain species of ants are much more eager to attack, bite, and sting than others. The infamous fire ants, for example, are so aggressive that they will readily attack a human even if he or she is just standing a couple of feet away from their mount and isn’t directly threatening it. What makes matters worse is that the fire ant venom is very potent and can cause severe ant bites to itch, irritation and pain, as well as harsh fire ant allergy reactions and anaphylaxis that, if left untreated, can even be life-threatening.
What do ant bites look like? How to distinguish ant bite from other insects bite?
Depending on the particular ant species and the strength of the venom, ant bites can look different from one another. Most distinguishable are the fire ant bites as they create red hive-like lesions with white points at the top. They are usually created in straight or curvy lines as ants can bite or sting multiple times and will do so while they move up and down your skin.
More often than not you will notice the ants as they are biting you because they will do it in large numbers simultaneously if you are on top of or close to their nest. If you’ve just been bitten by a single ant once or twice you might not notice it immediately but instead, start to feel itching and an allergic reaction to ant bites in a day or two.
How to treat an ant bite?
Most of the time ant bites won’t require any specific ant bites treatment. Even when they itch and bother you they are harmless in 99% of the situations. To soothe the itch from an ant bite you can use standard commercial creams and products. You can also use some home remedies for ant bites such as lemon juice, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, honey, toothpaste, cucumber, olive oil, or salt.
There is a small percentage of cases when an ant bite/sting can cause an allergic reaction, however. Fire ant bites and ant bites on baby, toddler or a small child, in particular, can have some serious consequences if left untreated. Some of the allergic reactions you can expect from a fire ant bite include chest pain, sweating, swelling, loss of breath, dizziness, slurred speech, fever, and more.
If any of these symptoms become evident or if the itching doesn’t pass after treating it for several days, contact a medical professional as soon as possible.
How to stay safe from ant bites?
The easiest way to protect yourself from ant bites is to not bother ants with your physical presence. When you are out in the open fields, woods, or other places likely to have ant nests, simply look where you’re stepping and sitting. Stepping on top of or next to an ant mount can easily anger the entire colony, especially if it’s a fire ants colony.
If you are in a situation where you need to combat an ant infestation, do so using the right ant repellents, baits, and other products, and without trying to physically deal with the nest itself.
And bites and stings are a bothersome nuisance most of the time and are generally not as dangerous and other insects’ stings. Sometimes, however, an ant bite can have more severe and outright dangerous effects so caution is always advisable.