Guide to Ant Bites and Stings

Iowa's Guide to Ant Bites and Stings

June 10, 2014

Ants might be social insects that live in colonies with a thousand other nest mates, but that doesn't mean that you have to befriend these six-legged creatures. Besides becoming a nuisance if they enter your house, ants can also bite or sting when they feel that they are in danger. Use our tips below to identify these biting ants and treating their wounds.

Black Carpenter Ants

Identification: 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.

Bite: 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 ant does bite. After they bite, their next step of defense is to spray a formic acid into the wound to increase the pain. This will most likely result in a small welt, minor swelling and itchiness.

Red Pavement Ant

Identification: Just like their name suggests, the Red 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 - 2.5 to 4 mm long.

Sting: The Red Pavement Ant does not bite, although they are able to sting. Their venom is not poisonous, but it can cause an allergic reaction or rash for people with sensitive skin.

Fire Ants

Identification: Fire ants are often called Red Fire Ants because of their light brown color, but not all fire ants are red. The Black Fire Ant is less common but their bite can be just as painful. Both species are 1/8 inch long and are commonly found in southern areas of the United States.

Bite: Fire Ants are very protective of their colonies and will fight very aggressively. They will bite multiple times, injecting venom that causes severe pain and swelling that can lead to pus-filled blisters and infection.

Treating Ant Bites

While most ant bites are minor and do not require a visit to the doctor's office, some ant venom (fire ants included) can cause allergic reactions. If you experience nausea, severe swelling, difficulty breathing or other strong reactions, seek immediate medical help. Here are instructions on how to clean and treat an ant bite or sting at home:

1. Wash the wound with soap and water.

2. Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to prevent infection.

3. Apply ice to the wound to help with pain and swelling.

4. Apply cortisone cream to eliminate itchiness and redness.


Leading Des Moines Pest Control

Ants have complex nesting habits, making at-home extermination methods often unsuccessful. If you suspect signs of an ant infestation in or around your home schedule an appointment with us online or call  (515) 276-7277 today.