Guide to Ant Bites and Stings

Iowa's Guide to Ant Bites and Stings

April 13, 2021

While the spring is a wonderful time for Iowans to gather outdoors with friends and family, or even to simply enjoy the warm, fresh air after a long and cold winter, ants are most active during this time of year. Many of us may never notice the near microscopic critters marching by us, but there’s always the occasional, physical encounter with an ant or their colony. In these cases, it can be extremely beneficial to know which of Iowa’s ants bite or sting because they won’t hesitate to do so if they feel endangered.

Our experts have been providing ant pest control in Des Moines for nearly four decades and the tips below will help you identify these biting ants and properly treat any wounds caused by an ant bite or sting.

What Are The Most Common Types of Ants in Iowa?

There are many types of ants in Iowa, but not all are harmful or bite. Ants are social creatures who live in colonies that can grow to millions of members. These colonies are organized hierarchically with a Queen at the top followed by female worker ants, and then males. Together, they team up to gather food and take care of the younger members of the group. Though there is an abundance of ant species in Iowa, there are only a select few that can wreak havoc and prove difficult to eliminate. Let's take a look at the most common species of non-biting and biting ants in Iowa.

  • Carpenter Ants: The most common ant in Iowa is the Black Carpenter Ant. They are distinguishable by their fairly large size and smooth, rounded thorax. You'll find them living in hollow trees, logs, firewood and in wood that is exposed to water. When a carpenter ant senses that their nest is being disturbed, their natural instinct is to attack their predator. Although they do not sting, this black ant does bite. These black ant bites are followed by a spray of formic acid into the wound to increase the pain. This will most likely result in a small welt, minor swelling and itchiness.
  • House Ants: Also known as odorous house ants, these pests are black and brown, are between a 1/16 and 1/8 of an inch in length. They get their alternative name because of the rotten smell they put off when crushed. These ants can become very persistent pests and enter homes in large numbers. While these ants can bite, people rarely experience a problem. However, individuals with a sensitivity to these brown ant bites may experience an allergic reaction.
  • Thief or Grease Ants: Thief ants are brown-yellowish and do not bite. This species gets their unique name because they often nest near other ant colonies and will steal their food and their young.
  • Yellow Ants: They get their name from their appearance, however yellow ants are also referred to as citronella ants because when crushed, they will give off a citrus-like odor. Rest assured, if you spot a yellow ant, they are harmless to humans. Although, to create their nests, these pests actually up-turn soil and can become a major nuisance to homeowners with lawns.
  • Pavement Ants: Like their name suggests, Pavement Ants are the kings of the sidewalks, driveways and all types of pavement. But you'll also find these tiny ants on kitchen counters or climbing up the picnic table in search of sugary crumbs. They vary in color from red-brown to black-brown and are smaller in size - measuring only 2.5 to 4 mm long. While they can bite and have a stinger on their last abdominal segment, Pavement ants will rarely bite humans. Their venom is not poisonous. If anything, people with sensitive skin may experience an allergic reaction or a rash.
  • Fire Ants Red ants are almost always referred to as Fire ants. In fact, Fire ants are often called Red Fire ants because of their light brown color, but not all fire ants are red and not all red ants are Fire ants. The Black Fire Ant is less common but their bite can be just as painful. Both species are 1/8 inch long and are not typically found in Iowa but are commonly found in southern areas of the United States. Fire Ants are very protective of their colonies and will fight aggressively to defend them. They will bite multiple times, injecting venom that causes severe pain and swelling that can lead to pus-filled blisters and infections. Fire ants are attracted to scraps and if you’re home has clutter, or food isn’t stored properly, you very well may be sending an invitation for these pests to enter your home.

While cleanliness will help you prevent an infestation, reaching out to professionals who perform ant pest control in Des Moines is always the best way to ensure an ant-free home.

Treating Ant Bites

While most ant bites are minor and do not require a visit to the doctor's office, some ant venom can cause allergic reactions. If you experience nausea, severe swelling, difficulty breathing or other strong reactions, seek immediate medical help. Here are some instructions for cleaning and treating an insect bite or sting at home:

  1. Wash the wound with soap and water.
  2. Dab on a small amount of rubbing alcohol to prevent infection.
  3. Apply ice to the wound to help with pain and swelling.
  4. Rub cortisone cream on the affected area to eliminate itchiness and redness.
  5. Monitor the bite and make sure the wound doesn’t continue swelling. If the redness and swelling doesn’t subside, you may want to seek help at a local medical clinic.

Should I be worried about an ant infestation?

Some ants, like carpenter ants, can cause damage when working in large numbers, however, most ants are nuisance pests. Ants will not cause any harm to your health, but it’s best to get rid of ant infestations when you spot them inside or outside the home. Ant infestations can develop rather quickly since ants live in such large colonies.

Where do ant infestations typically occur?

Inside the home, you’re most likely to find ants in the kitchen or bathroom. These are popular ant infestation areas in the home because ants are attracted to moist areas with nearby food sources and potential hiding places. Once they find a good spot, they signal others to come, and you’ll have an infestation before you know it.

Ants found outside are not as troubling, but we still recommend getting rid of outdoor ant infestations as they can be a bother, and there’s the risk of them making their way indoors when Iowa’s weather gets colder.

Why do ants build mounds?

Ants live underground, and they form mounds when the soil that’s removed is deposited above ground. The main reason ants build mounds is for protection from predators, however ant mounds also regulate temperature and moisture conditions in their living space. Worker ants dig tunnels below ground that connect ant colonies to food sources, other colonies or nesting areas to prepare for a mating flight of reproductive ants, known as swarmers.

Learn more about the different types of ants in Iowa, their nesting habits, and the best way to prevent ants from entering your home in our pest library.

Ant Removal in Des Moines by Preferred Pest Control

When the ants come marching, reach out to our experts for ant removal in Des Moines. Ants have complex nesting habits, making at-home extermination methods difficult or frustrating. Schedule an appointment with us online to get rid of your ant infestation or call (515) 415-5550 today.