Are Ants Dangerous to Your Home, Health, and Environment?

Having even a minor ant problem in your home can be enough to make most peoples’ skin crawl.  But aside from the disgust factor, can these insects pose a real threat to you and your loved ones? The answer may surprise you.

So, are ants dangerous to your home, health, and environment? While ants don’t pose the same type of danger as other more aggressive pests, they can still be dangerous. Ants can carry diseases, some of them are even very serious. Some species of ants can also pack a nasty bite or sting, which can lead to infections and other complications, especially if you are allergic.

In short, yes ants can be dangerous, this answer may shock some people, as most of us consider ants to be harmless. In addition, there are more indirect ways that ants can impact your life. If you use pesticides to remove an infestation from your home, you’ll want to consider how safe they may be for you, your family, and pets. 

Another unwanted effect of an ant infestation is cost. How much will you have to pay to remove an infestation from your home, and what is the cost of replacing any contaminated goods?

Understanding these threats will help you manage an ant problem you may be dealing with and avoid one in the future. Now we will look at each one of these potential dangers in detail. Let’s start!

Ants Can Transmit Diseases

Ants can carry bacteria that can cause serious diseases like Salmonella, E. coli, dysentery, and smallpox. Any bacteria that an ant comes into contact with, inside or outside, can be transmitted to any food they crawl over. That means you should never, under any circumstances eat food which has been touched by ants. Even if the ant only crawls briefly over the food in question, bacteria can still be transferred onto the food. 

Discard any food items that have (or that you suspect may have) come into contact with ants. It’s important to note that consuming food touched by ants is not the only risk when it comes to these insects and the transmission of disease.

Ants can also transmit dangerous bacteria by coming into contact with open wounds on the body. If you have an open wound, cover it properly, and remain aware of your surroundings if you are outdoors, or if you have an ant problem at home.

Related: Do Ants Carry Diseases (Germs)?


Ant Bites, Stings, and Potential Complications

Ant Bites, Stings, and Potential Complications

Ant bites and stings can not only be painful but they can also be dangerous. For people who are allergic to ant bites and stings, this could mean anything from mild irritation to going into the anaphylactic shock. A minor allergic reaction can include swelling, burning, or itching. 

To treat these symptoms, try hydrocortisone cream or cold compress for relief.  However, if more serious symptoms arise, like throat or tongue swelling, dizziness, trouble breathing, confusion, or loss of consciousness, contact professional emergency help immediately, as these are signs that the victim could be going into anaphylactic shock. 

Typically, an emergency medical technician will treat the patient with epinephrine and may recommend that in the future, the patient carries an “EpiPen” with them at all times.  This is a dose of epinephrine in an easy to use form and can be life-saving if emergency medical help cannot get there in time.

Another issue that can arise from ant bites and stings are infections. Typically, this will occur when the bite or sting is scratched, further tearing the skin and introducing more bacteria into the wound. Try your best not to touch or scratch the affected area. If the area does appear to be infected, see your doctor. He or she may prescribe an antibiotic.


Risk of Pesticides Used to Treat Ants

If you have an ant problem in your home or on your property, you may be considering using a pesticide or professional exterminator to treat the problem. While this can be effective, be aware of some risk factors for products commonly used to treat ants

Also be aware of signs of over-exposure to pesticides, which can include nausea, dizziness, headaches, and difficulty breathing. Here are some commonly used solutions for an ant problem in your home.


Ant Baits


The Concept

The idea is simple, ant baits contain a substance that smells attractive to ants but is toxic to them. Thinking they’ve found the next meal for their colony, they will carry portions of the substance back to their nest and leave a trail for other ants to find their way to the ant bait.

The poison eventually kills off the entire colony. Ant baits can be purchased at any hardware or big box store. If you want to buy it online, we suggest considering the Home Plus Ant Killer.

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The Risk

Most ant baits contain sodium tetraborate decahydrate, otherwise known as borax.  Luckily, ant baits contain only a small amount of borax and therefore are generally safe to have around the home. For this reason, ant baits are considered less toxic than other pesticides used in the home which can contain harsher chemicals. 

Regardless, keep the ant baits away from small children. If the product is ingested, contact a poison control center for advice, and watch for symptoms of nausea, diarrhea, or rash.


Bug Spray That Kills on Contact


The Concept

Bug sprays meant to kill on contact can be satisfying for its quick results because any ants you spray it on will die immediately. However, the long-term effectiveness of this kind of pesticide will be disappointing. 

Remember, the individual ants you see in your home are just a tiny fraction of an ant colony. Unless you can kill the entire colony or create an effective barrier around your home, your spraying will be in vain! If you are looking for a powerful ant spray then consider Raid Ant Killer (Lemon Scent).

Raid Ant & Roach Killer Lemon Scent, 17.5 OZ (2)
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The Risk

These types of products are often packaged in aerosol cans.  This can cause a significant amount of product to be dispersed into the air during use.  Do everything you can to avoid inhaling the product or allowing it to come into contact with your skin.  While these types of insecticides are generally considered safe for use in the home, it is best to err on the side of caution; there are plenty of pesticide products that were also once considered safe, but have since been determined to be harmful to humans.


Professional Exterminator

Professional Exterminator Ants

The Concept

A professional exterminator is a sure way to get rid of your ant problem. They are able to use high-grade insecticides, which are extremely effective, but not for sale to the general public.

Related: What Chemicals do Exterminators Use for Ants?

These insecticides spread to every ant which it comes into contact with, and similarly, each of these ants will spread it to other ants which they come into contact with. This ensures that the insecticide moves quickly through the colony and exterminates it effectively.


The Risk

Most professional exterminators will recommend using a liquid ant treatment as this avoids the chemical floating through the air in your home. Still, avoid touching any area where the pesticide was used until it is completely dry. 

If these options still make you uneasy, there are a number of natural remedies you can try before resorting to pesticides.


Natural Remedies


Vinegar

  • Half vinegar, half water solution can be a safe, effective and cheap way to control your ant issues.
  • Ants dislike the smell of vinegar and will avoid surfaces on which it has been sprayed.
  • The strong scent of vinegar will also erase any ant pheromone trails. This is the scent ants leave behind, telling other ants to follow along behind them.

Chalk and Baby Powder

  • Draw “do not cross” lines with chalk or sprinkle baby powder anywhere you find ants.
  • While it is not known exactly why ants avoid these products, it’s an inexpensive and harmless way to help control your ant problem.

Spices

  • Cinnamon works great as an ant repellant, and it can even kill ants. Sprinkle it anywhere you see them and along the paths they’re using within your home.
  • Mint leaves are a great option because they are not as messy as other powdered spices, and mint is easy to grow yourself. Bundle some fresh leaves together and place them wherever you see ants.

Financial Costs

Unfortunately, an ant problem can also affect your wallet. The highest cost may come in the form of a professional exterminator, who can charge anywhere from $125 to $1,000 or more for ant treatment. 

Another consideration is the cost of replacing all the food the ants may have come into contact with. To save money, try a natural or at-home treatment before calling the exterminator.


How Can I Keep Ants Out of My Home?

Sealing any cracks around windows, doors, and walls is an important step to ensure that ants don’t find a way inside. However, most important of all is ensuring that ants don’t want to enter your home in the first place. That means ensuring that your house, especially your kitchen, is kept clean at all times. 

Even small spills or unwashed dishes sitting out for a short time can attract ants to your home.  It’s best to store opened food in sealed plastic or glass containers. If possible, store fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator.


Summary

If your home or property is infested with ants, don’t despair. Although they can pose a real threat to you and your family, knowing what to do will ensure that you can handle the problem effectively and keep your loved ones safe!

If you need tips on how to get rid of them please read our other articles on ant control. We have a vast database on pest control that can for sure help you. Best of luck!

Related: Ants in Garden: Are Ants Good for Plants in Your Garden?


List of Sources

Ants and Schools, Environmental Protection Agency, United States

Loreto R.G., Hughes D.P., Disease Dynamics in Ants: A Critical Review of the Ecological Relevance of Using Generalist Fungi to Study Infections in Insect Societies, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, United States

Máximo, H. J., Felizatti, H. L., Ceccato, M., Cintra-Socolowski, P., & Beretta, A. L. (2014). Ants as vectors of pathogenic microorganisms in a hospital in São Paulo county, Brazil

Penick C.A, Halawani O., Pearson B., Mathews S., López-Uribe M.M., Dunn R.R., Smith A.A., External immunity in ant societies: sociality and colony size do not predict investment in antimicrobials

Touchard, A., Aili, S. R., Fox, E. G., Escoubas, P., Orivel, J., Nicholson, G. M., Dejean, A. (2016), The Biochemical Toxin Arsenal from Ant Venoms. Toxins

Penn State researchers believe ants can offer human-disease insights, The Pennsylvania State University

Simothy, L., Mahomoodally, F., & Neetoo, H. (2018). A study on the potential of ants to act as vectors of foodborne pathogens. AIMS Microbiology

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