Deadly Ants In The United States

 Asian Needle Ant: A Growing Threat to Biodiversity and Human Health

asian needle ant in Kansas city

Asian Needle Ant

The Asian needle ant (Brachyponera chinensis) is a species of ant that is native to Japan and other parts of Asia, where it is known as oo-hari-ari or giant needle ant because of its large and painful sting. However, this ant has also been introduced to the United States, where it has become an invasive and potentially harmful pest.

The Asian needle ant was first reported in the U.S. in the early 1930s, but it was not recognized as a serious problem until 2006. Since then, it has been documented in several states, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Connecticut, and New York. It has been found in various habitats, from urban areas to forests, where it nests in dark and damp places under stones, logs, stumps, and debris.

The Asian needle ant poses a triple threat to humans and the environment. First, its venomous sting can cause severe allergic reactions in some people, which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. The sting is also very painful and can cause swelling, itching, and redness. People who are allergic to insect stings should be especially careful when in areas infested by this ant.

Second, the Asian needle ant can invade homes and buildings, where it can contaminate food and cause nuisance. Unlike other common household ants that have large colonies and are easy to spot, the Asian needle ant has smaller colonies and is more secretive. It can also climb on smooth surfaces like glass, making it harder to trap or exclude.

Third, the Asian needle ant can disrupt the natural balance of the ecosystem by outcompeting and displacing native ants and other insects. Native ants play important roles in seed dispersal, soil aeration, pest control, and nutrient cycling. The Asian needle ant can reduce their diversity and abundance by preying on them, stealing their food sources, or taking over their nest sites. This can have cascading effects on other organisms that depend on native ants for food or mutualism.

The Asian needle ant is a growing concern for conservationists and homeowners alike. It is not clear how this ant was introduced to the U.S., but it may have been accidentally transported through trade or travel. Once established, it can spread rapidly through human-mediated dispersal or natural dispersal by winged queens. There are currently no effective methods to eradicate this ant from an area once it has invaded.

The best way to prevent the spread of this ant is to avoid transporting soil or plant material from infested areas to uninfested areas. If you encounter this ant in your home or garden, you should try to identify it correctly and report it to your local extension agent or pest control professional. You should also wear protective clothing and gloves when handling this ant or its nest sites. If you are stung by this ant, you should seek medical attention immediately if you experience any signs of anaphylaxis.

The Asian needle ant is a new (old) invader that has serious implications for biodiversity and human health. By being aware of its presence and impacts, we can help slow down its spread and protect our native ecosystems and ourselves from this unwanted guest.