Ants can cause all sorts of different problems from infesting your food to even causing structural damage to your house. On top of that, these ants can also bite or in some cases sting. Their ability to bite and sting is certainly the most unpleasant (and sometimes even painful) problem out of them all.
Almost every ant can bite, some of these bites are harmless while others cause allergic reactions. Depending on the species, ants can bite or sting, or in some cases both. Usually, ant stings are more painful than bites. Also, some ants will neither bite or sting, they will just spray the formic acid.
What do ant bites look like? Ant bites look like small red marks, while more serious ant stings cause red blisters that look like pimples. Depending on the ant species, most people will experience one or more of the following symptoms such as a burning sensation, pain, redness, mild swelling, dizziness, itching, and other.
In most cases, people forget about the ant bite in a few days but there are some ant bites that will stay with you for even a few weeks, such as the fire ant bite.
The great news is that the ant bites and stings are not dangerous. In the absolute majority of cases, people don’t require medical treatment. However, the situation can get more extreme, if someone getts allergic symptoms or if there are too many simultaneous ant bites (stings). The sting of a red harvester ant, for example, attacks the body’s lymph nodes and if you are allergic to the venom, the sting can be fatal.
Those that have been bitten by a bullet ant say that it feels like being shot. If a swarm of these ants attacks a human, they might end up stinging the person to death.
How to avoid ant bites and stings? How to find out if you are allergic to bites or not? Are there any home remedies that will help you in such a situation? Don’t worry, we will answer all of these questions and more in the following sections below. Let’s begin!
Ant Bites | Information and Identification
There are a lot of different types of ants and it is very important to try and figure out what type of ant has bitten or stung you because some of them can cause additional health complications.
Fire Ant Bites | Red Ant Bites
Red fire ants can be very aggressive. Moreover, they can inflict dozens (or even hundreds) bites at a time. They use their mandibles and mouth to attach themselves to the body (this is when the bite happens) and then they sting with their stinger.
Most likely, the place that had been stung will develop red welts with white pustules. These symptoms may not appear immediately. It usually takes between 6 and 24 hours. In some cases, the pustule might last for ten days. Some individuals can develop blisters.
Related: How to Get Rid of Fire Ants
Black Ant Bites
Little black ants do have a stinger but in the absolute majority of cases, it is simply not big enough to do any harm. Their bites are also not that painful or dangerous.
Related: How to Get Rid of Black Ants
Carpenter Ant Bites
Carpenter ants apply formic acid when they bite. That means that you might experience a burning feeling on your skin and redness but their bites are not really that harmful.
Flying Ant Bites
Depending on the type of the flying ant some of them are known to bite, while others sting, but they are very unlikely to do that. Usually flying ant are passive and will not engage people as their main purpose is to reproduce.
Related: How to Get Rid of Flying Ants
Sugar Ant Bites
Sugar ants do not sting, but they can bite if they feel disturbed. Thankfully, if you are not allergic, the bites will not produce any symptoms and you might not even feel it.
Harvester Ant Bites
Harvester ants can bite and sting simultaneously. These ants will use its mandibles to attach to your skin and in order to repeatedly sting you and inject venom. Harvester ants can sting multiple times and cause painful sores.
Related: How to Get Rid of Harvester Ants
Piss Ant Bites
Piss ants are not a threat to humans as they cannot sting. Only their soldiers can cause painful bites as they also apply the formic acid on the skin.
Related: How to Get Rid of Piss Ants
Velvet Ant Bites | Cow Killer Ant Bites
The nickname of velvet ants is the ‘cow killer’. Moreover, these ants are not really ants. Velvet ants are wasps and the sting of these insects is very painful. The spot where the person was stung will, most likely, become swollen and red. Also, some may develop different allergic reactions to the bite. Overall, these are one of the most painful bites and try to avoid velvet ants at all costs.
Related: How to Get Rid of Red Velvet Ants
Pavement Ants Bites
Pavement ants have a stinger but it is too weak to penetrate the skin. These insects can bite. However, their bites are not venomous and in the majority of cases, you won’t feel anything. The people that are sensitive can get skin irritation or a rash.
Related: How to Get Rid of Pavement Ants
Argentine Ant Bites
Argentine ants cannot sting. If disturbed, these ants can bite, but you won’t really feel it. They are really small ants that overcome their victims with sheer numbers. The biggest threat that can come from these ants is that they can contaminate your food.
Crazy Ant Bites
Crazy ants can bite in self-defense. The bite may be initially painful, but it will quickly fade away. Their erratic movements can cause anyone problems.
Related: How to Get Rid of Crazy Ants
Leaf Cutter Ant Bites
The jaws of Leafcutter ants can easily cut through your skin and cause bleeding. Definitely be careful with these ants as any open wound can get easily infected. Try to immediately disinfect it. If an ant has bitten you and you are bleeding, it most cases you have been bitten by a Leafcutter ant.
Do All Ants Bite? | Types of Ants that Bite
The truth is that all of the ants have the potential to bite, as all of them have some type of mandibles. So, if an ant is disturbed, it might decide to defend itself. However, some species are more aggressive and are more likely to bite than the others. Both, small and larger ants can attack you.
Here are also a few examples of the ants that can both bite and sting you:
- Red fire ants
- Harvester ants
- Field ants
- Crazy ants
Now that we know that any ant can end up biting you, it is important to understand why these insects “attack” in the first place. In most cases, ants bite out of self-defense. If these insect feels like you might be a threat to their life or to the colony, they will try to do something about it.
Some ant types are more aggressive and they can attack you the moment you start coming close to the nest, for example. Another possible reason why ants bite humans might be the fact that they have accidentally mistaken your flesh for food.
Ant Bites vs. Ant Stings: What Is the Difference?
The answer is not that simple to explain. We know that all ants have chewing mouthparts that, in theory, can be used for bitting. However, some of these mouthparts are just too small to hurt people. So, a lot of ants also have stingers. The mandibles that are used to bite are located on the ant’s head, while the stinger is found on the caudal-most part of their bodies or basically at the bottom.
Of course, many people mistake the stings for bites and vice versa. Do bear in mind that sometimes the ant can do both the bite and sting. For example, fire ants grasp the skin, and only after that inject the venom with their stinger.
Allergic Reaction to Ant Bites – Ant Bite Symptoms
There is a chance that you may not develop any symptoms after being bitten by an ant. However, a few unpleasant symptoms that can accompany an ant’s bite or sting can develop in some cases. People that are susceptible to allergies can get dangerous and almost deadly symptoms, especially in cases where multiple ants bite them.
Ant Bite Swelling
If you end up developing any of the ant bite symptoms, the chances are high that it is also going to be accompanied by the swelling. The area that has been bitten or stung can become swollen. The best thing that you can do in such a situation is to hold the skin under the running cold water (or use an ice pack).
Ant Bite Blister
When an ant bites you, you might develop a small, itchy bump. Anywhere between 8 and 24 hours you may end up with a small blister that is filled with fluid.
Ant Bite Allergy
Of course, allergic reactions can appear in individuals at any age. However, it is scientifically proven that adults suffer from allergic reactions more often than children. Around 0.4 to 0.8% of kids can develop an allergic reaction. While in adults that number is around 3%. One of the main manifestations of an allergic reaction is that it affects the unaffected areas of the bite. For example, you might develop redness or swelling not only around the actual bite but also on the area away from the infection.
Around 1% of ant bites can result in a severe allergic reaction. Depending on the severity, a person may develop four different allergic reactions:
- Local reaction – the place that has been bitten or stung will become red and swollen. Such a reaction possesses no danger.
- Large local reaction – if the area is not only red and swollen but also very itchy and with blisters slowly starting to appear, then you are experiencing a large local reaction. It may last up to 10 days.
- Mild systemic reaction – the “victim” can also develop stomach cramps and diarrhea. Moreover, you might end up vomiting. Some stings can disrupt the proper functioning of your gastrointestinal tract and in such a case things can get dangerous.
- Severe systemic reaction – this usually occurs in people who are extremely sensitive and have allergies. At least two of your vital organs can stop functioning well. The symptoms usually include chest pain, hypotension, and dizziness.
Ant Bites Itch
The place that has been bitten or stung by an ant can become itchy a few hours after the bite. In most cases, that is a normal reaction and depending on the type of the ant it can last up to 10 days (sometimes, a little longer).
How Long Do Ant Bites Last?
There is no single answer to this question as the duration depends on plenty of different factors. However, in a lot of cases, you might be having the ‘peak’ of your body’s reaction to the ant bite after 1 or 2 days, while some other symptoms can last for even 7 to 10 days.
Ant Bites Treatment – Ant Bite Remedy
Thankfully, if you are not having a severe allergic reaction to the bite, you can totally treat the ant bite at home. But please consult a doctor in case the symptoms start getting worse and if you are not quite sure what exactly you should do.
How to Treat Ant Bites – Instructions
Of course, the ant bite treatment depends on the severity of the reaction. But the very first thing that you would want to do is remove every ant away from your skin and ensure that these annoying pests stay away from you. Don’t forget to thoroughly wash the affected area because keeping everything sterile is very important (you can use simple soap and water).
Another important thing that you have to do is to monitor your overall condition. What is happening to the affected area? Are you starting to feel dizzy? Check-in with yourself every 5 to 10 minutes within 1.5 hours to make sure that you are not developing an allergic reaction.
Applying a cold compress is always a good idea. You can also take an Antihistamine as it will help to get rid of the itching and control the swelling.
Note: If you are a person who is sensitive to various allergens or if you have been bitten/stung by a rare type of ant – seek emergency treatment straight away.
What to Put on Ant Bites – Best Products for Ant Bites
Before we come to the products that you can put on ant bites, the first right step is to apply the cold water or an ice pack directly to the ant bite. Even a packet of peas from the freezer will help you with the pain and swelling.
Redness and inflammation can be combated with the help of baking soda paste, Aloe Vera gel, lemon, and honey. You can choose any of these ingredients to keep the ant bite under control. However, do bear in mind that these products won’t really help if you have an allergic reaction.
To relieve the itching caused by an ant bite, you can use hydrocortisone cream. If the sting or the bite area has been opened by scratching, you should use something to prevent infection (like a triple antibiotic ointment, for example).
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How to Treat Fire Ant Bites
Being stung by a fire ant is painful. These insects attack in swarms and every ant can sting several times, so that makes the whole situation even worse. Usually, the insects race up vertical surfaces when their nests are disturbed (that can totally happen to your leg, for example).
There are also some gel creams available online that stop pain and itch and help keep the wound sanitized – Fire Ant Bite Treatment Sting Zapper Gel Cream First Aid.
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How Long Do Fire Ant Bites Last?
In the absolute majority of cases, the fire ant bites look like swollen red spots that might develop a blister on the top. The fire ant sting can last for even 10 days but on average the symptoms are going after 7 days.
Should You Pop a Fire Ant Bite?
Poping a fire ant bite is definitely not recommended in order to prevent infecting the wound. However, if you can’t resist the urge to pop a fire ant bite (in case it’s too painful or you feel like it should be drained), then make sure that you have fully disinfected the area. Do your best to disinfect the wound and keep everything sterile.
Home Remedies for Fire Ant Bites
There are few simple home remedies that can help you ease the symptoms if you have been stung by a fire ant. Please remember that these remedies are going to help you only with symptoms such as redness, itching, and so on. In case you feel like you are developing an allergic reaction – call the emergency help.
Cold water can help you control the swelling. However, “hot” water can also help. If you hold the affected area under the hot running water (not too hot, though), it will neutralize the fire ant’s venom and that will certainly reduce the itching.
With the help of baking soda and water, you can create a paste. After that, put it onto your skin and leave the paste there for about 10 minutes. Then rinse the skin with lukewarm water.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Rub the vinegar on your skin. It will not only bring relief but also disinfect the skin.
Essential oils can help reduce irritation, pain, and swelling. For example, basil, wintergreen, roman chamomile, and lavender will get the job done.
Cucumber can help you reduce the itching from an ant bite. Simply apply a thin slice to the wound.
Rub a bit of olive oil onto the skin. The product contains oleocanthal that will help you get rid of the redness, itchiness, and irritation.
Things to Avoid Doing to the Ant Bites on Your Body
The rules are pretty simple – the less you touch the ant bite, the better. Popping and scratching the bites is certainly needs to be avoided. If you touch or scratch the bite area will get even more inflamed, and, as a result, the bite will start to itch even more.
Moreover, you increase the chances of getting the bite infected and you surely don’t want that to happen. If you have to itch or touch the bite, gently tap the surface with your finger. Also, you can try out one of the home remedies mentioned above.
Now you know almost practically everything about ant bites: identification, treatment, allergic reactions, and so on. Fortunately, the majority of ants won’t attack you, unless you disturb their colony. So, it is always easier (and better) to prevent an ant bite or sting than to cure it later on.
The great news is that now even if you get bitten by an ant, after reading our guide you will know exactly what you need to do. And please always remember that ant bites can be extremely dangerous for people with allergies. Sometimes calling an emergency is the best thing that you can do. For more pest-related content please keep following our site!
List of Sources
The Fire Ant Sting, Mississippi State University
Drees B., Medical Problems and Treatment Considerations for the Red Imported Fire Ant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Kruse B., Anderson J., Simon L.V., Fire Ant Bites
Swanson G.P., Leveque J.A,. Nephrotic syndrome associated with ant bite
McGain F., Winkel K.D., Ant sting mortality in Australia, University of Melbourne