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Do Ants Carry Diseases (And Which Ones)

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Ants typically do not carry disease organisms with them as they go about their day-to-day life, and for this reason, it is generally considered safe to interact with them. 

There are some risks associated with ants though, such as allergic reactions from bites or stings and food poisoning (if ants have been crawling through your food supply, they can transmit bacteria that they may carry on their bodies). 

These risks can be mitigated if you stay aware of your surroundings and act quickly when you notice an infestation of ants within your home.

Do Ants Carry Diseases?

Ants do not typically carry diseases. However, they do contribute to the spread of food-borne disease organisms [1] and can trigger allergic reactions from bites or stings that some people experience. 

Ants do not typically carry diseases, but they do have the potential to do so. 

ant helps in pollination

First up is food poisoning as a result of eating contaminated foods that ants have been in contact with. 

In general, those who are most at risk for these types of food-borne illnesses are the young, elderly, or those who have compromised immune systems.

Ants Can Spread Food Borne Disease Organisms

While ants do not typically carry diseases, they can spread food-borne disease organisms. 

For example, the sweet substance called honeydew that many species of aphids secrete is highly sought after by ants as a source of nutrition. 

In this case, if an ant has come into contact with the bacteria on the surface of an infected leaf, it can transfer the bacteria to its mouth and eventually to fellow ants, who will then spread that infection throughout their entire colony.

They can also spread this to your food if you’re experiencing ant infestations in your home.

Also read: Can you eat ants?

worker ant collecting food

What Diseases Can Ants Spread

Ants do not typically carry diseases they can spread to humans. However, there are three common foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States that can originate from ants [2]

  • Salmonella Typhimurium
  • E. coli O157:H
  • Shigella sonnei

All of these infections come from eating foods contaminated by ant feces, which contain bacteria from their digestive systems. 

Ants do not get sick from these pathogens and instead spread them to humans through contact with food or drinks shared by others.

Ants Can Spread Germs

Ants scavenge for food and water, which means that they end up coming into contact with a wide variety of different types of germs from all over the place. 

When an ant finds something tasty to eat or drink at a certain location, it will return there again and again.

This means that ant trails do sometimes result in the spreading of germs and other pathogens from one place to another, just as human paths do when we walk back and forth between two different places regularly.

ants on sand

Allergic Reactions From Bites and Stings

Ant bites can cause allergic reactions in some people. If you are bitten by an ant or multiple ants, rinse the area with warm water to reduce itching while waiting for it to heal on its own.

Stay away from these 13 most dangerous ants.

large blister from insect bites

Ant bites do not typically require a visit to the doctor unless you have been bitten multiple times or if your reaction is especially severe.

Ants do sting and bite, but most of the time they do not transmit diseases through these actions.

As said, the few cases where ants do spread diseases involve foodborne pathogens that are ingested by eating contaminated foods or drinking water containing ant parts. 

Infections may occur when an individual has a cut inside his/her mouth while chewing on something with an ant part in it.

Symptoms for this type of infection include difficulty breathing, chest pain, nausea/vomiting, and fever.

Read more: Why do ants bite?

Asthma From Bites and Stings

If you do get bitten or stung by an ant, the symptoms of asthma could be worsened. Ants do not normally carry diseases that cause asthma symptoms to flare up but it might happen in some rare cases. 

asthma

If this does occur and is left untreated it can lead to a potentially deadly attack so seek medical attention as soon as possible if needed.

Ants are not known to transmit disease and it is exceedingly unusual for them to induce an allergic response or aggravate asthma symptoms. 

If you are bitten or stung by an ant, and your asthma symptoms are worsened, the best course of action is to visit a doctor as soon as possible. This will ensure that your condition is completely diagnosed and treated quickly, avoiding any future issues.

Get Rid of Ants Before They Cause Trouble

It’s important to act quickly if you notice an ant infestation in your home if there are any signs of diseases present as well. Though this doesn’t happen a lot, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Most ants do not carry diseases, as they do not have the right environment to harbor pathogens. In fact, most ant species do not even bite or sting humans. 

Ants are actually very helpful to us because they eat termites and other insects that would otherwise damage our homes. If you see an ant outside your house, just leave it alone.

The steps to getting rid of ants are as follows:

  • Step 1: Figure out where they’re coming from
  • Step 2: Seal up their entrance points
  • Step 3: Use ant spray, bait, or other ant killing measures (you can also try ant repellants if you don’t want to kill them)
  • Step 4: Clean up your home to avoid future infestations

Call an Exterminator

ant spray and exterminator

When ants invade the home, you can try to kill them yourself, but you might not have any luck. 

The best course of action is always to call an exterminator and let a professional do it for you. Pesticides that are available over-the-counter may cause more harm than good if you don’t use them the way they’re intended, or if you don’t take the required safety measures [3]

A professional exterminator will do a thorough inspection and treatment of the home, ensuring that all ants are gone.

If you have been bitten or stung by an ant but do not see them anywhere in your home, it is still important to call a professional so they can do their job thoroughly and correctly. They may even need to come multiple times so do not think it’s “not that bad.” 

The more ants are in your home, the more likely they are to spread disease. If you have any allergies or sensitivities to bee stings, call a doctor right away if an ant has bitten you. Ant bites can in extreme cases be very dangerous and require treatment quickly.

About Teodoro Pittman

Teodoro is a nature and animal lover. He specifically focuses on insects, such as ants, bees, and the like. In his free time, he takes care of his own ant farm, where he analyzes their behavior. Teodoro has spent the last 7 years studying the intricate behavior of these small creatures.

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