Out and about in the open country or walking along river banks, I occasionally encounter an ants nest. The usual times when they become a problem is when we find somewhere suitable for a picnic. We start to make ourselves comfortable, then discover that we’re right-near, or on top of, an ants nest. I don’t know much about them but I’d like to know if they’re a hazard that we should be worrying about. I’ve been looking around to see what other people think and what experiences they’ve had.
So, are ants dangerous to humans? In the UK there doesn’t appear to be anything to worry about except the red ants, they will bite when they get the chance. In the US there are ants that you need to look out for that have migrated from the southern continents. They can be a nuisance when they clash with human habitation.
The most common ant in the UK is the black ant. These tend to be harmless. I haven’t put it to the test myself but apparently they can run over your skin and won’t sting but they may give you a nip. These are the ants that very often create a mound on the lawn or set up a colony underneath loose patio slabs.
The ant to be wary of is the red ant also known as the fire ant. These will bite and deliver a sting. They hold on to the skin by biting then they infuse the sting from the abdomen, rather like a wasp. If you are unlucky and get bitten and stung by the fire ant then you will experience a burning pain, hence the name ‘fire ant’.
Generally, the sting from a fire ant is harmless but it will be painful with, likely, swelling followed by itching.
In the USA the fire ant is a considerable pest. There is also occasional confusion between the fire ant and others that look similar. These include the Western harvester ant, which bites and stings,
There appears to be two types of fire ant that cause problems in the USA. There is the ‘imported’ fire ant, native to the south american continent, and the southern fire ant. Both are known for their stings which can be painful with added complications of swelling and irritation.
Can an ant bite make you sick?
Some people may have allergies to the sting. It may cause dizziness or nausea. There are also suggestion that swellings may emerge on unrelated parts of the body. If you have any concerns after being stung by an ant, or anything else, you really need to seek medical attention. If you know that you’ve been bitten because you’ve felt the pain from the bite followed by swelling and the itching has set in, then the best thing you can do is to apply a suitable ointment to reduce the itch. The itch can last for several weeks. It’s not wise to keep on scratching the infected area as this may cause an open wound.
Why do ants bite you for no reason?
Ants will bite if they feel that they are being attacked or think that their colony is being threatened. They have a means of communication that allows them to gather information. This information appears to find its way to the queen-ant. She is the centre of the ant-colonies local universe. She will process the information that’s presented to her and will make a judgement. If she gets a message that suggests that the colony is being attacked then she will send information out to the worker ants to attack. In this way the whole colony, in all its parts, has the ability to work as one large organism.
Can ant bites kill you?
My findings on the subject of dying from ant bites are, as you can probably imagine, very disturbing. Suffice to say, if you know there are ants in the vicinity, you must take every precaution to protect yourself. The thing is, one bite or sting won’t kill you unless you have an extremely rare allergy that makes you susceptible to a range of complications.
The trouble can really start if you are attacked by a whole colony and you become bitten and stung by hundreds of ants all in one go. The venom from this will have an immediate effect on the fittest of people. Anyone who gets caught in this situation will face serious consequences and, quite possibly, death.
What helps soothe ant bites?
You will know when you’ve been stung by an ant. The next thing will be to look for a solution to the discomfort. There are a number of suggestions out there that appear to help. I’ve been looking around to see what’s being suggested and found a few options. Here are some of them. If you are as unsure about any of it, as I am, then you need to go and see a medical professional.
Applying a cold compress may help to reduce the swelling. Use ice but don’t put directly against your skin. Wrap the ice in a towel or some other cloth. Applying cold and not heat appears to be the best advice Don’t hold it on continuously. Hold it in place for about 15 minutes then take it off for 15 minutes then on again.
Use a hydrocortisone cream on the affected area. Hydrocortisone cream can be bought over the counter. Hydrocortisone is a steroid which can be effective in reducing inflammation. This must be used with care. The advice is to keep it off your face. Prolonged use of hydrocortisone cream on delicate sensitive skin can cause visible damage.
If you have a sting on the face the advice is to avoid using any of the over-the-counter hydrocortisone preparations. You need to go to a doctor to be subscribed a preparation that will be suitable for your particular problem.
An antihistamine may help if you are suffering an allergic reaction. Antihistamines are used to control other allergies e.g. hay-fever. This option may not be without its problems. It would be wise to get advice before taking it especially if you are taking other medication. There are also side effects. They can cause drowsiness and a ‘sick’ feeling which is no good if you need to be driving or doing anything that requires alert judgement.
If you find that the affected area has turned into an open wound, possibly because of scratching while asleep, then you may need to apply, what’s known as, a triple antibiotic ointment. This will inhibit the progress of most of the bacteria that we are exposed to and will encourage the wound area to heal.
Then there is the suggestion of an oatmeal bath. I’d never heard of this before so it needs further investigation. It’s apparently effective at reducing many skin irritation problems including eczema. There’s even a suggestion that an oatmeal bath will reduce the trauma of shingles. So, what’s an oatmeal bath?
You have to use something called colloidal oatmeal which appears to be a fancy way of saying that the oatmeal must be finely ground to a powder. This is then stirred into water to form a suspended solution to make a colloidal oatmeal bath. The oatmeal must be raw, not cooked.
The finely ground oatmeal suspended in solution can then come into intimate contact with the skin. Oatmeal flour contains, what’s known as, avenacin compounds which apparently has antifungal properties known as saponins which have a cleansing effect.
It also provides a rich and mobile source of vitamin E which helps as an anti-inflammatory. There are also phenols and starches that appear to help with maintaining skin moisture.The thing that appears to help with soothing irritated skin is the cellulose and fibre from the oats.
You don’t need to know the full chemistry about this but using oatmeal this way appears to be a natural solution that can reduce inflammation and irritation. There don’t appear to be any adverse side effects and so we can presume it to be safe. You don’t need to have a bath full of the solution just for a couple of ant bites. You could mix up a small amount for a local treatment of skin. This may be an option to use on the sensitive areas of skin on the face rather than risking using hydrocortisone.
When should I be concerned about a bug bite?
If you have difficulties soon after being stung by an ant or any other bug, this will probably mean that you have an allergy. You may encounter breathing difficulties and or you may feel a sense of losing consciousness. There may be severe swelling of the affected area. If any or all of this happens within an hour of the sting happening then you will need urgent medical intervention.
If you know that you are susceptible to anaphylactic reactions to insect stings then you need to consult with a doctor. You may be advised to carry an Epipen. These are emergency syringes with a short,fine needle. The Epipen contains measured doses epinephrine which, when injected under the skin, are supposed to have an immediate effect to reduce the reaction to the allergy.
The same approach apparently works on allergies to foods or other substances that trigger a anaphylactic shock. The epinephrine is said to improve breathing and reduce swelling in the throat within seconds of being injected. The heart will be stimulated and the blood pressure will be corrected. It will also help to reduce swelling around the face and lips.
Using the Epipen is very much an emergency approach. It’s being described as a lifesaver but before acquiring such a thing you must talk it through with a doctor. If ever you find that you actually need to use it, be aware that the dose that you receive from it may only have a temporary effect. So, after the initial administration and you’ve, hopefully, started to make a recovery, you need to know that the recovery may only be short term. You need to go and find medical assistance before the effect of the epinephrine wears off.
Are ants dangerous to eat
It would make no sense to pick up an ant from the ground but what some people are asking is; is it safe to eat food that ants have been crawling over? The answer to this appears to be yes. There are no reported fatalities or problems from this. If ants get into the cupboard or invade and temporarily occupy the picnic hamper, they don’t appear to leave any lasting problems.
One piece of advice that I’ve picked up for deterring ants from the kitchen or pantry is to strategically place cinnamon sticks where you have the types of food that ants go for. You also need to wipe away spills, especially anything that contains sugar.
Amazingly, in some parts of the world, people do eat ants and their grubs.
In the people’s democratic republic of Laos they apparently prepare a salad which includes live ants and the ant eggs. They are reported to have a lime, lemon sour taste. In India there are reports of a chutney made from ground ants. If you want more there are also chocolate covered ants, these can be found in parts of South America.
There has also been reports of ants being used as a dessert topping in a high-class Michelin-star restaurant in France. The eating of ants is being taught to some military personnel in a number of countries as part of their survival training. If you think about it like this then, you can say that eating ants won’t hurt you but you will need to know what you’re doing.
Are ants dangerous to plants?
There appears to be good and bad news regarding the relationship between ants and plants. There is an advantage to a plant if ants create tunnels that bring air to the roots. They also prey on some insects that are detrimental to plants but they also cultivate insects that suck from some plants.
These insects deplete plants which you will want to flourish. The ants effectively ‘farm’ them for a substance known as ‘honey-dew’ which they periodically ‘milk’ from such insects. Clever ants but if you’re looking for a good reason to get rid of an ants nest then, there it is.
Are ants dangerous to rabbits?
The red fire ants will be dangerous to all pets including rabbits especially if they can’t get away from them. If there is any signs of an ant colony anywhere near your rabbit enclosure then you must take action to get rid of it. Fire ants will bite and sting a rabbit just like they would sting us. The black ants wouldn’t be such a problem but your rabbit will definitely appreciate it if you get rid of them if there is a colony near by. Black ants won’t bite or sting but would be a major irritation to the rabbit.