These invasive ants in Kentucky sting and cause a life-threatening allergic reaction in some people

Anita Durairaj

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Asian Needle AntPicture by April Nobile / © AntWeb.org / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Asian Needle ant (Brachyponera chinensis) looks harmless enough in that they are similar in appearance to other ants. However, they are invasive ants that are not native to Kentucky.

The Asian Needle Ant is originally a native of Japan and parts of Asia. The species has been in the U.S. since the 1930s and in Kentucky since 2013.

The needle ant is twice as long as a regular house ant but it is smaller than carpenter ants. They are about 0.2 inches long. They also look shiny and black and have orange-colored legs.

The needle ant is considered to be invasive because they drive out native ant species that play important roles in the forest ecosystems. They prey on other ants that are important seed dispersers in forest ecosystems.

Needle ants are also harmful to humans. Their sting is known to be very painful. The bite from a needle ant has been described as like a "burning sensation" and "being stabbed with pins."

In some people, the sting of the Asian Needle Ant can be life-threatening and result in anaphylaxis. Symptoms include skin reactions, low blood pressure, weak and rapid pulse, nausea and vomiting etc. Immediate medical attention is required in these cases.

Studies indicate that about 2.1% of people stung by the needle ant seem to undergo this extreme allergic reaction.

The good news is that most Asian Needle Ants are found outdoors. In rare cases, they have invaded people's homes indoors.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises that people should become aware of the Asian Needle Ant and avoid it.

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Trained with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati, I write unique and interesting articles focused on science, history, and current events.

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