Which Ants Bite? 4 Common House Ants that Bite or Sting

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Ants may be small, but their bites can be very painful. CC Image courtesy of John Tan on Flickr

ALL ANTS BITE! They all have mandibles, so it makes perfect sense that any ant can bite you at some point. The only thing that you have to remember is that species differ in how aggressive they are. Some species are hostile enough to take you on even though you’re gigantic to them. So which ants do this? Which ants bite?

Bite vs. Sting

Before we move on to more specific things, let’s just get these two ideas out of the way. Biting and stinging are different.

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Biting involves an ant’s mouthparts, specifically its mandibles. Those are the claw-like things you see protruding from its mouth. They pinch your skin and cause a small wound you can’t see with your eyes.

An extreme close up of an ant’s head gives us a clear view of its pointy mandibles.

Some ants bite and spray venom into the wound. Their venom mainly contains Formic acid. It’s not as dangerous as a snake’s, but it irritates your skin, causing more discomfort, swelling and even blisters.

Stinging, on the other hand, happens when ants use the southernmost part of their gasters. That’s the pointy end of their abdomen. These stingers may have the same kind of venom or worse. There are also some species that actually bite you first and then sting you afterwards.

Ants that Really Bite

So which ants bite? Well not all ants have alarming bite cases. But there are some species that are known to fight back. According to eHow, here are the most common species that do the most biting:

Acrobat Ants

These ants (Crematogaster spp.) can grow up to .21 inch in length. They got their names from their weird habit of raising their gasters when alarmed. Aside from that odd behavior, you can identify these ants through their distinct heart-shaped gasters.

Although non-threatening, worker ants can be hostile when threatened. They can both bite and sting. They also release a nasty odor that can repel just about anyone with a nose.

Carpenter Ants

With mandibles that can practically pierce wood, it’s totally no surprise that carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) can point those sharp pinchers towards human flesh.

Carpenters ants vary in color, red, yellow, orange or black. They can grow from .3 to 1 inch long. You can also tell if it’s a carpenter ant by locating at its nest. They usually stay inside wood. Sometimes, they even live inside nests abandoned by termites.

Carpenter ants don’t just bite you. Their strong jaws can grab on to your skin while they inject formic acid into the wound.

Pavement Ants

Pavement ants (Tetramorium caespitum) are a common household pests. You can recognize these .1 inch ants through the long parallel lines that run from their head to their thorax.

These ants can sting and bite when provoked. They’re even aggressive enough to take over another colony when it’s too close to their own.

Fire Ants

A fire ant looks fearsome with its dark red color and big mandibles. Image courtesy of Animal Planet HD

And finally, we have the fire ants (Solenopsis spp.). We know which ants bite according to the list, but these guys are in a different level.

Fire ants have flame red bodies (sometimes black). They can grow from .06 to .2 inch, with long stingers at their backend.

These ants attack using their jaws and stingers. Compared to other house ants, these ones can give you the most pain. They grip you with their mandibles and then sting you.

Their potent venom gives you an excruciating burning sensation while the bite area swells and blisters. There ARE remedies for their stings, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to get rid of them pronto.

What can happen after a bite or a sting?

ant bites on a child

Ant stings and bites are relatively harmless. They may hurt a little, and you’ll feel irritated and uncomfortable. But most of the time, that’s just about it. The bite or sting also loses its effects within a few hours or days.

However, there are preexisting health conditions that can get triggered by these ant-induced attacks. According to Animals.mom, the most dangerous thing that can happen after a bite or a sting is a severe allergic reaction. This can lead to a lot of welts around the body, swelling and in a worst-case scenario, anaphylaxis.

So in case of bites and stings, think back to your medical history and observe how your body responds. Get antihistamines and salves ready. And in case you don’t have insect bite remedies, rubbing salt or Aloe Vera into the affected area will do.

Ant bites and ant stings are different, but they give you the same discomfort. In the end, it matters that you identify which ants bite. It matters that you know what kind of ant you have around the house, a stinging aggressive type or a small mellow type. Identifying these insects gives you the sense of urgency that tells you to get rid of them now!

Looking for more? Check out our complete guide to getting rid of ants.​

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