why do ants attack?

Few things are more frightening than dealing with an ant attack. While most ant species are small, they can attack in large numbers and if you find yourself in the middle of an ant attack, it can be hard to know how you should react.

If you want to be prepared for an ant attack, it’s a good idea to learn why ants attack and what you can do to prevent this scary situation from occurring. Here’s some information to help you understand why ants attack, what species are more prone to attacks, and what you can do to avoid being involved in an ant attack. 

Why Do Ants Attack?

If you want to reduce your chances of being involved in an ant attack, then it’s important that you learn why ants can be aggressive towards humans. While ant behavior can differ from species to species, the reason that most ants decide to attack humans is because they feel threatened.

For example, in most ant colonies, there are groups of ants whose sole purpose is defending the colony or queen from outside threats. If you’re going for a stroll through the woods and stray too close to an ant colony, the ants may perceive you as a threat, resulting in them attacking you to drive you away from the colony.

Even individual ants can attack if they feel that their safety is at risk. If you see an ant in your home and try to pick it up, it’s possible that the ant will attack you to protect itself. If you want to avoid ant attacks, it’s best to stay aware of your surroundings so that you can give ants the space they need to feel safe. 

Ants and Predators

As mentioned, ants will almost always attack when they feel threatened. However, there are certain circumstances where ants choose not to attack because doing so may put the entire colony at risk.

For example, if a predator comes too close to an ant colony, the ants will absolutely defend themselves. However, if ants encounter a predator on their own while away from the colony, they will usually run away instead of attacking. The reason for this is very simple – the ants’ main goal is protecting the colony and attacking a predator that isn’t an imminent threat is needlessly risky.

If attacking risks the safety of the colony, ants will usually not attack. 

Which Ants Attack?

Now that you know some of the basic facts about why ants attack, it’s a good idea to learn which species are more prone to attacking humans. Just like people, some ants are more aggressive than others. Knowing which ants will attack can help you protect yourself from being harmed.

Almost every species of ants can bite because they have mandibles. However, most species will only do so as a last resort. Other species, such as fire ants, are a lot more aggressive and might attack at even the slightest provocation. Ants that you see in your home such as carpenter or argentine ants are more of a risk to your house than they are to you, meaning you shouldn’t be too worried about them attacking. 

About Fire Ants

Fire ants are one of the more aggressive species that you may encounter, so it’s a good idea to learn about this type of ant to reduce your risk of an attack.

One of the most interesting things about fire ants is that they made their way to the United States by accident. However, now that they’re here, they can be a real nuisance to anyone that comes across this species.

The likelihood of a fire ant attack depends on the age of the ants with which you are dealing. Fully grown worker fire ants, for example, are well-known for their aggressive tendencies. On the other hand, younger fire ants that have not yet matured prefer to avoid conflict, sometimes playing dead to avoid the need to attack.

In most cases, you’re only at risk for a fire ant attack if you’re outdoors and too close to a colony. However, in some circumstances, fire ants have been known to attack indoors, meaning you should always be on the lookout for this ant species. 

Do Ants Attack Each Other?

Why Do Ants Attack
Why Do Ants Attack? 4

(mage via Flickr by Pietro Di Bello

After learning that ants attack people, it’s common to want to know if ants will attack each other. As you might expect, ants will attack each other in a wide variety of circumstances.

Just like when they attack people, the most common reason ants attack each other is to protect their colony and its surrounding territory. If one ant species gets too close to another species’ territory, a conflict will absolutely occur. Ants will often attack other ants to take control of food and other resources, making them a lot like humans in this regard.

Sometimes ants will attack other ants in their own colony. In most cases, this is in an effort to strengthen the colony. Ants will also attack other insects if they consider the insect prey. As in most cases, ants will attack other insects in swarms. 

Why Are Ant Attacks Serious?

Because ants are so small, it’s common to assume that their attacks aren’t that serious. While this can be true in most cases, ant attacks can be very deadly, particularly if you have an ant allergy.

When most people are bitten or stung by an ant, the only result is a little pain and itching for a few days. However, if you’re allergic to ant bites, being attacked can cause anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that almost always requires medical attention. If an ant attack results in an allergic reaction, it can be very serious, even deadly. 

Prevent Ant AttacksAnt attacks, while not frequent, can certainly happen, especially if you’re not paying attention to where you’re walking and stumble upon an ant hill. If you want to make sure that you’re not at risk for an ant attack, it’s best to talk with an ant expert so that you know what ant species are in your area and how likely they are to attack you if they feel threatened.


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