Stinging Insect Allergies: Ants

in Outdoor Allergies, Sting Allergy
Published: July 16, 2014

See also: Bees/Wasps | Mosquitos

Ants may be most notorious for raiding picnics, but when it comes to the remarkably industrious insects, people with allergies have more than their sandwiches and salads to worry about. Some ants carry a fiery sting; others can take a serious bite out of your home; and ant baits can be bad news for those with a peanut problem. So how to keep the persistent pests away from your abode?

For answers on ant safety, we turned to Stoy Hedges, senior technical professional and entomologist with Terminix, as well as the AAAAI’s stinging allergy guidelines.

Fire ants

Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service,
Asian needle ants

Jessica Louque, Smithers Viscient,

Bug Basics

• People tend to think of ants as little more than pesky picnic raiders, but some ants come with a serious sting, among them the fire ant, the twig ant and the Asian needle ant. Most live in the Southern U.S. and coastal areas such as California and Hawaii.

• Other varieties such as carpenter ants tend to burrow in wood, and if an infestation is serious enough, can seriously damage the structure of a house.

• Most varieties of ants are “nuisance ants” – that is, they don’t sting or destroy wood, but they get into food, damage gardens, etc.

• Ants are extremely diversified, and are some of the most successful creatures on Earth next to man in terms of organization and finding resources to build their tiny cities. Some ants even have multiple cities with little highways of ants going back and forth between them.

• They are also very adaptable, and are constantly looking for better nesting sites and resources.

Did you Know

• Like most bees and wasps, fire ants and other types of stinging ants can sting more than once.

• Venom from stinging ants such as the fire ant can cause allergic reactions, and in some cases, even life-threatening anaphylaxis.

• There are 70 different species of ants that get into structures around the United States. Roughly 40 of them are somewhat important pests; 10 to 15 can be significant pests, depending on where you live.

• There are 25 varieties of carpenter ants in the U.S. alone; but only four or five types are considered responsible for structural damage to homes and other structures.

• Many ant baits are very effective, even for fire ants, because they take the poison back to the queen and kill the colony; but some colonies have many queens, so this process can take days or even weeks.

Next page: Dos and Don’ts