While most ants tend to be harmless, some can definitely be dangerous. Depending on the species, ants present a variety of dangers from simply causing damage to our homes and the environment, to causing health related issues. In fact, some ant species have even caused human deaths while some are simply known to be particularly annoying and dangerous pests to our homes and gardens.
In this article we’ll look deeper into the different ways that ants can be dangerous to us humans, our property, pets, and the environment.
How Are Ants Dangerous?
As mentioned, ants can be dangerous in a variety of ways, from simple pest behavior to causing health and even life threatening concerns. More specifically, these ways are as follows:
- Bites And Stings. If you’d ever been bitten or stung by an ant, then you’d know that it typically just causes mild irritation as characterized by some pain, swelling, and itchiness in the affected area. In some rare cases however, the venom from these bites and stings may cause an allergic reaction that leads to anaphylaxis and symptoms such as nausea, headaches, shortness of breath, and chest pain. It’s also worth noting that the same venom also affects and may especially cause allergic reactions to small animals. So best keep your pets away from ant mounds.
- Disease Vectors. While mostly clean, ants can get dirty by the nature of their work and cause contamination. In fact, microbiological analysis on ants have shown the presence of fecal contaminants as well as several disease-causing pathogens such as E.coli and Salmonella. Thus, indicating the possibility of ants to be vectors of foodborne diseases. Furthermore, studies have also identified several ant species like the Pharaoh ant as disease vectors in hospital environments as they’ve been shown to carry Staphylococcus, Clostridium, and Streptococcus bacteria.
- Structural Damage. Many ants, including the commonly known carpenter ants build their nests in wood by chewing and tunneling through them to create galleries wherein the colony can thrive. This means bad news for any wooden stores or structures you may have in or outside your house. Fences, wooden beams, and structural lumber for example, may all get chewed on and have their structural integrity compromised.
- Ecological Damage. While ants are generally beneficial and even lauded for their ecological importance, they too may cause ecological damage. Research has found that at high population densities, ants no longer provide benefits but instead cause negative effects to the density and diversity of other animal groups. Apart from that, ants may also cause indirect damage to plants and crops as they build their underground nests or mounds, forage, and form mutualistic relationships with other pests.
Are Ants Bad For Plants?
Most ants aren’t inherently bad for plants, but as mentioned they too may cause plants damage. For instance, ants are known to herd and farm pests like aphids which suck out nutrients from plants and when left unchecked, eventually causes the latter to wither.
Of course, there are also some ant species which do directly cause damage to plants. One of which is the aggressive army ants, which pretty much destroys everything in their paths. These typically blind ants travel together and collectively swarm and feed on any plants and animals they can encounter, leaving both vegetation and foliage in an area completely destroyed.
Are Ants Dangerous To Pets?
Ants pose significant dangers to pets. Their venom which affects us humans, will have the same effects on our pets and may particularly be lethal to small animals. One ant species of special concern is the fire ant which bites and stings cause swelling, pain, and anaphylactic reactions which are potentially deadly for pets.
Do Ants Carry Disease?
Apart from the allergic reactions that they may cause, ants don’t directly cause other medical issues as they don’t carry disease in the sense that other pests do. Ants in fact, are rather clean animals as they rely on cleanliness for survival.
However, this doesn’t mean that they can’t get dirty and in fact, research has found that ants can harbor and transport disease causing pathogens. As mentioned, microbiological analysis on ants have found the presence of contaminants which may cause food-borne diseases. Some species have also been identified as vectors of infectious bacteria in hospital settings.
Are Ants Beneficial?
Despite the different dangers associated with ants presented to this article, ants remain to be highly beneficial creatures. As mentioned, ants are lauded by scientists for their ecological importance, and they do in fact have positive effects on the environment.
Most notably, as decomposers, ants help keep the environment clean and facilitate the recycling of nutrients, making them available for producers to use. In a way, ants help sustain us and other life forms on earth.
Despite their size and making them seem insignificant, ants have a great impact towards us and the environment. In most cases, ants are seen to be extremely important for the environment and ultimately help in sustaining even us humans. However, they too can be dangerous.
Ants are equipped with natural weapons or defenses in the form of their mandibles and stingers that pose a threat to us and other animals. Not only that, they may sometimes unknowingly serve as disease vectors even as they just go about their day to day lives. Finally, when left unchecked, ants can become serious pests and negate all the benefits they provide for the environment and cause ecological damage instead.