Do All Ants Bite?

While many people picture fire ants when thinking about ant bites, the assumption that they are the only ants that bite isn’t always correct. There are more than 12,000 species of ants and each differs in how they defend themselves. Do all ants bite?

do ants bite

Yes, all ants can bite. But the answer isn't that simple, because many ant species have differing defense mechanisms. Fire ants, for example, typically bite and then sting by injecting chemicals that can cause allergic reactions, but this response is usually only reserved for situations in which their nest or nest-mates are in danger. Some also use this defense mechanism for acquiring food from predators.

It is possible to determine whether an ant will bite or sting by observing its physical properties. Ant bodies have three parts. These include the head, thorax and abdomen. Their bodies also possess nodes, which connect their thorax to their abdomen. One of the first steps in identifying ants is to see if they have one or two nodes. Another identifying characteristic is whether or not they have a stinger.

Ants That Bite and Sting

Red imported fire ants

fire ants

fire ant sting is supposed to burn like fire. A unique characteristic of these ants is that they not only bite the skin, but they also sting the perceived threat multiple times. Their stings usually produce a cluster of swollen red spots that develop a blister on the top. Stings hurt, itch and some resulting blisters may last up to a week. Some people have a dangerous allergic reaction to stings and will need immediate medical attention.

Acrobat ants

acrobat ants

Acrobat ants usually sting their prey for food. They enter homes that have sustained previous damage by other pests, such as carpenter ants or termites. These ants feed on sweets and proteins, which can be found in areas such as the kitchen or pantry.

Harvester ants

harvester ants

Harvester ants are aggressive and sting their prey multiple times, similar to fire ants. The sting causes minor pain, which usually subsides within a few hours. The sting site might become swollen and red.

Ants That Bite

Field ants (Formicinae)

Field ants can give a painful, pinch-like bite to people and pets when threatened. 

Crazy ants

crazy ants

Crazy ants get their name because of their erratic movements. Similar to other Formicine ants, they have only one node and bite in defense.

Carpenter ants

carpenter ant

Carpenter ants are one of the largest species of ants. The worker ants can bite when they feel threatened. Their bite can be painful due to their large size.

There are other types of ants with different behaviors and characteristics. You can learn about them here.



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