Stinging needle ants from Asia are spreading across the United States. The insects could cause damage to the environment and be harmful to humans as well. The stinging ants reportedly have the potential to be more devastating than the Argentine ant.
The venomous sting of the Asian ants can cause allergic reactions in some individuals, NBC News reports. The stinging ants produce a small welt when they release their venom. The welts then become surrounded by a rash, which itches and hurts when scratched. The stinging ants can form “supercolonies” with thousands of queens and millions of workers, Science World Report notes.
North Carolina State University entomologist Eleanor Spicer-Rice had this to say about the invading insects:
“While Argentine ants cause a lot of damage, Asian need ants are a really big health threat to humans. It is one of those aggravating bites. While the Argentine ants aren’t bothering the Asian needle ants for one reason or another, the Asian needle ants may be eating the Argentine ants.”
Argentine ants are reportedly aggressive to other ant species and typically push them out of their territory. The unusual behavior prompted the North Carolina professor to delve further into the habits of the stinging Asian ants. From 2008 to 2011, Argentine ants populations dropped in her study areas. Asian and Argentine ants overlapped in 15 of the population sites researched.
Folks in North Carolina have reportedly gone to the hospital after bites by the stinging ants. The Asian ants are often found in woodpiles and attack the unsuspecting hands of humans reaching into the piles.
Although the Asian stinging ants have been found in the United States since the 1920s, their populations have exploded in the past eight years. As the ant colonies grow, they are fanning out across the country. Asian stinging needle ants are reportedly able to withstand cooler temperatures than the Argentine ants.