In previous blogs we discussed a bit about our native ant species and the types of ants most frequently encountered in New Jersey. Today, doctor we’re going to look at a few species of ant we don’t have here in New Jersey, and we should be happy we don’t!! We’ll discuss some of the scariest, most deadly and most feared ants on the planet, then count our lucky stars how they’re not here in the Garden State.
We’ll start off close to home with a deadly and dangerous ant that has established itself in the United States within the last century. The Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta) is native to South America but due to global trade and transport has established itself in the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Australia and Asia. Their highly aggressive nature and painful sting when defending their nests is most likely the origin of their name, as anyone who stepped on a mound can surely attest.
When disturbed, fire ants will swarm up the legs of any animal close to the nest. The ants don’t begin stinging immediately but instead wait a few moments allowing dozens of ants to gain a foothold on the intruder. Once the first ant begins to bite and sting, the rest of the ants will follow en masse making the victim feel as if the ants began their attack “all at once”. Fire Ant attacks are particularly vicious as workers will latch on with their strong jaws and sting repeatedly until removed. Approximately 1% of the population is hypersensitive to Fire Ant venom and may have a pronounced reaction to even a few stings. Although Fire Ants regularly overwhelm and kill small animals like rodents and lizards, the relative size and speed of humans keep a healthy person safe from succumbing to attack.
For more information about the Red Imported Fire Ant, click here.
African Driver Ants (Dorylus spp.) are comprised of dozens of species throughout the continent and are covered under the Swahili word “Siafu”. These driver ant colonies can number up to 20 million members and have been known to relocate as a group in a thick column of workers and soldiers that can cover up to 20 meters in an hour. There is a significant difference in workers and soldiers in the Siafu colonies, with the soldiers being several times larger than workers with a strong and pronounced jaw structure. Although these marching columns can easily be avoided, any sleeping animals they encounter are at grave risk. Likewise for residents of a home that the colony may move through. Columns of Siafu have been known to skeletonize small to mid-size livestock in a very short amount of time.
Native Africans have developed a healthy respect for these high powered army ants. Many locals often look forward to Siafu columns as they will consume any pest they might encounter, offering pesticide free crop protection for local farmers. They will also scavenge any small particles of debris they encounter, often times leaving homes and offices cleaner than when they entered. The Massai have actually learned to utilize Siafu soldiers as emergency first aid! Wounded Massai huntsman learned years ago that they could suture wounds by getting the Siafu soldiers to bite on either of the wound, effectively closing it. Then the bodies of the ants are pinched off and the heads remain with jaws locked for several days allowing natural healing of the affected area.
For more information on the African Driver ant, click here.
The last, and possibly most dangerous ant we’ll discuss, is native to Australia, the Jack Jumper Ant (Myrmecia pilosula). A type of Bull Ant, Jack Jumpers are voracious predators with a nasty sting comparable to wasps and hornets. Up to 3% of the population of Australia is allergic to these ants and will suffer anaphylactic shock from even one sting. Unlike other ants discussed in this article, Jack Jumper Ants tend to forage singly even though they are part of a colony like other ants. This solitary behavior is a blessing in disguise to humans as multiple stings from this insect would almost certainly be fatal. Just a quick look at the jaws of a worker Jack Jumper Ant is enough to make you happy that we’re very far from Australia.
if you’d like more information about the jack Jumper Ant, click here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our quick tour through this terrible trio of ant species. The next time you see a few ants in the kitchen, I’m sure you’ll be happy that it’s only a few of our native Pavement Ants stealing from the sugar bowl and not an invading column of Siafu storming your backyard barbeque!
If you think you might have any ant problems (hopefully the less dangerous, local kind) click here to request a free service estimate.
To download our free eBook about local ant species, click here!