Bug Blog

Harvester Ants Often Migrate Into Urban And Residential Areas Where Their Stings Send Hundreds Of People To The ER Each Year

Despite the excessively dry and hot weather in southern Arizona, many ant species are able to survive living in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. One group of ants that are considered desert-dwelling species that rarely appear in urban areas are commonly known as harvester ants. Some people may have heard of harvester ants in the media due to the insanely painful stings that they inflict. Experts who have personally experienced stings from the most venomous insects in the world consistently claim that harvester ant stings are among the most painful stings a person can possibly experience. One single sting from a harvester ant can cause a burning pain that can last as long as eight hours, and several symptoms can result, including hives, swelling, wheezing, sweating, faintness, and nausea. It is thought that humans rarely sustain harvester ant stings due to the ant’s preference for dwelling in isolated desert areas, but recent research shows that these ants invade homes and buildings in residential and urban areas of Arizona frequently, and sting reports among residents are not uncommon.

Until recently, harvester ants were considered agricultural pests only, but a recent survey of pest control professionals in Tucson and Phoenix found that harvester ants are common urban and suburban pests in southern Arizona. Researchers conducting the study also reviewed medical records in southern Arizona and were surprised to find that residents are admitted into emergency rooms frequently due to severe harvester ant envenomation. The researchers found 25 harvester ant nests surrounding the University of Arizona campus, and all four of the Tucson based pest control companies surveyed for the study stated that harvester ants are one of the most common arthropod pests encountered on properties. The study also revealed that most ant stings in Arizona are inflicted by either harvester ants or native fire ants, and one Tucson man suffered a potentially deadly onset of anaphylaxis in response to harvester ant stings. This man sustained stings regularly, as his yard had been thoroughly infested with harvester ants for a long period of time. Several more cases of anaphylaxis resulting from harvester ant stings were found, and some sting incidents resulted in death. Luckily, several baits have been developed to control harvester ant pests within and around homes.

Have you ever sustained a painful ant sting, or several?