Ants are capable of biting, stinging and spraying irritant chemicals.
Most have only a mild effect on humans; however, a few can cause
injury or sometimes even death. Like wasps, individual ants are
capable of stinging multiple times.
1 Fire ants
2 Other species
3 See also
Red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta
The fire ant
Solenopsis invicta is a species that is expanding in
range around the world and is most often involved in medical
emergencies. The species is aggressive and has a painful sting. A
person typically encounters fire ants by inadvertently stepping into
one of their mounds, which causes the ants to swarm up the person's
legs, attacking en masse. The ants respond to pheromones that are
released by the first ant to attack. The ants then swarm and
immediately sting when any movement is sensed. People who are
sensitive to the venom can die of anaphylaxis. In a survey of 29,300
physicians in the United States of America (in 1989), reports of 83
fatalities were obtained. Some fire ant attacks on humans confined
to beds have also been noted; in some locations, fire ants can be a
particular threat in medical facilities since they can have nesting
colonies inside human habitations.
Solenopsis invicta and Solenopsis richteri, serious
allergic reactions are known from ants belonging to 6 different
subfamilies (Formicinae, Myrmeciinae, Ponerinae, Ectatomminae,
Myrmicinae, and Pseudomyrmecinae) and 10 genera (Solenopsis, Formica,
Myrmecia, Tetramorium, Pogonomyrmex, Pachycondyla, Odontomachus,
Rhytidoponera, Pseudomyrmex, and Hypoponera).
The Argentine ant, Linepithema humile is found in Argentina, Southern
Europe, Southern USA and California. They are small and are found in
human habitations. They often kill other ant species. They have
been noted as having the potential to carry pathogens in hospital
The pharaoh ant, Monomorium pharaonis is found around the world. It is
not known for its sting, but has been involved in respiratory
Red bulldog ant
Bulldog ants, from the genus Myrmecia, are native to Australia, with
all but one of the ninety or so species found on the continent.
Belonging to the ant subfamily Myrmeciinae, they are among the most
primitive extant ants in the world. This species is known to cause
some fatalities in sensitive humans.
Bullet ants, from the genus Paraponera, are found from Nicaragua
southward to the Amazon Basin. They are and close relatives of the
genus Dinoponera, which are New World ponerines known for their
Driver ants, from the genus Dorylus, are found in the Old World,
especially West Africa and the Congo Basin. Unlike the army ants of
the New World, Old World army ants have a functional sting but rarely
use it, preferring their razor-sharp, falcate mandibles for defense
Dorylus spp. colonies also reach larger sizes than Eciton.
Pogonomyrmex maricopa, found in Western USA, are bright red
myrmicine ants whose venom is the most potent of any ant species.
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^ Harris, R J (2002) Potential impact of the Argentine ant
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