A stinging ant from Asia is giving alien Argentine ants, long considered to be the most aggressive in the United States, some competition as it rises to dominance.
New research by North Carolina State University indicates that the Asian needle ant is rising in numbers throughout the country. It has already been found in in several areas including Alabama, New York, and Oregon.
While their presence is expected to have environmental consequences, the needle ants’ interaction with humans is also raising concerns. Alien Argentine ants may cause damage but their competition can pose a health threat.
NBC News writes that the aggressors come equipped with a venomous sting which causes an allergic reaction in some humans. People on the receiving end of an Asian needle ant bite will experience small welts surrounded by rash. Pain and itching are also associated with the stings.
In a press release by North Carolina State University, co-author and entomologist Spicer Rice described how the species might spread:
“The Asian needle ant is moving into forests and urban environments at the same time. And because it is active at cooler temperatures, it could move into a very broad range of territory.”
Dr. Jules Silverman, a professor of entomology and co-author of the paper, said the following:
“If the Asian needle ant is effective at displacing a dominant species – and it is – then it could be the next major invasive ant species.”
Study details of the rise in dominance of Asian needle ants over alien Argentine ants was published February 8 in the journal PLOS ONE.