Why do red ants only bite me

Ant bites

A distinction is made between ant bites and ant stings. Ants can generally bite with their jaws (mandibles). Only the members of the subfamily scale ants - including wood ants, garden ants, ross ants - inject a poisonous secretion on the attacker, either over a distance or directly on the bite site. The secretion contains formic acid as an active substance. Just like the Dolichoderinae, the Formicinae have reduced (receded) the defensive sting.

None of the subfamilies except the Formicinae contain formic acid. The knot ants (Myrmicinae: red knot ants, lawn ants, thief and fire ants, etc.) and the primeval ants (Ponerinae) have poisonous secretions that are chemically closer to the poisons of bees and wasps. As with these, the ants also inject the poisons into the body with a defensive sting.

The effect of the poisons differs from species to species, but the information given for each species differs considerably. Paraponera clavata (a very large ponerine from South and Central America) is known as "Bullet ant", whose sting is just as painful as a bullet. It will be from a reliable source [1] reports that the sting "makes adult men scream" and that it can result in three days of bed rest. Dealers who sell this species in Germany describe their sting as rather harmless: "Has a poisonous sting, but only uses it in case of danger or destruction of the nest. Sting as painful as a bee sting."

Variable sequences of ant stings [edit]

Pustule with wound water after a sting of Myrmica sp. by the hand

Again and again there are arguments in the ant forums about how painful, dangerous or harmless the stings of ants should be. Opinions on the stings of the "24-hour ant" (Paraponera clavata), the Myrmecia species and the fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) differ particularly widely.

The assessments presented with conviction range from terrible pain, possibly resulting in death (proven in fire ants) to "harmless as a bee sting" (claimed for Paraponera), "not worse than Myrmica" (for fire ants).

Trivial is that the species are “poisonous” differently, that smaller specimens of the same species usually contain less poison than larger ones, and that people react differently to the stings.

What is not considered: An ant has a certain amount of poison in its poison bladder. When this is exhausted, it takes some time (days) for new poison to be synthesized again.

So it makes a huge difference whether you get the first sting of an animal with a full poisonous bladder from a Myrmecia or a Paraponera, or a second, third, when there is less or hardly any poison left!

The example of the Amazon Indians is often cited, who put a number of Paraponera workers into gloves (allegedly even “weaving into them”) into which young men then have to put their hands as an initiation ritual without showing any signs of pain.

Quote from a forum: "That clearly shows that the sting is not as dangerous and painful as it is often described."

It was not taken into account here that the ants during the procedure of catching and placing them in the glove certainly already released most of their poison into the material of the gloves or into the aids used for catching. The numerous stings should still be painful, but certainly not as if the candidate received the full dose from the poison glands of 20 or more of these ants.

For clarification: Certainly, one or the other has already been bitten several times in a row by a wasp that has got lost in a T-shirt, for example. The first one swells the most and is the most painful. The second has less of an effect, and the third can still be felt, but mostly only as a prick with no longer lasting consequences.

Personal testimonials about ant stings [edit]

(see also discussion on this page)

Alfred Buschinger [edit]

I found the sting of Myrmecia gulosa (Australian Myrmeciinae) as painful as a hornet sting. Pain and swelling on the foot subsided after about an hour, when cooled in cold stream water.

I recently had the opportunity to photographically document the reaction to stings from the native, very small turf ants (Tetramorium impurum). During the removal of some workers of the slave-holder species Strongylognathus alpinus (Fig. 1), workers of the slave species Tetramorium impurum managed to stab me in the crook of my arm. The pain is somewhat reminiscent of that caused by a nettle. Figure 2 and Figure 3 show the reddened swellings that appear immediately, i.e. within a few minutes. Itching and wheals almost completely disappear after about 6 hours. Around 24 hours later, slight itching occurs again, but it also soon disappears. Further consequences were not evident.

This is a perfectly normal reaction to lawn ant stings (I'm not allergic). The much larger red knot ants (Myrmica spp.) Cause a similar, somewhat stronger skin reaction. In particular, they can penetrate the human skin not only in particularly soft areas (crook of the arm, inside of the wrist, between fingers or toes), but also in normal areas.

In our own experience, the much larger Manica rubida stings about as hard as a hornet. Although the pain subsided relatively quickly here, too, an affected foot was severely swollen for several hours, so that it was impossible to put a hiking boot over it.

Stitches in the mouth and throat area can be particularly dangerous. Fortunately, this does not happen very often, but you could swallow a Myrmica at a picnic, for example if it messes with sweet pastries or fruit. I myself managed the trick with clumsy use of an exhaustor (suction tube for collecting small insects). A Myrmica rubra stung me somewhere around the uvula. The immediate sensation was that of localized icy cold. The throat area swelled up, my voice became "squeaky", and it was difficult to breathe. The whole thing happened on an excursion with around 20 young students. So I just had to keep lecturing. Fortunately, the swelling and breathing difficulties subsided after a few minutes, so that medical treatment was unnecessary. It is not known whether the ant had emptied its full load of poisonous secretion when it stung. Particularly for allergy sufferers, a certain degree of caution is recommended when handling such ants.

Fig. 1: Nest of the slave owner Strongylognathus alpinus with the host species Tetramorium impurum. The very large colony inhabited the entire pile of stones. Photo 07/29/05, 9:39 am, near Zermatt.
  • Fig. 2: Close-up of the wheals in the crook of my arm, 07/29/05, 9:50 am

  • Fig. 3: Overview of the wheals in the crook of the arm, 9:51. About a dozen ants had stung.

Fig. 4: A size comparison of the species mentioned in the text:

1 - a large Pachycondyla sp., South America. St: sting

2 - Myrmecia sp. (one of the largest types); Australia, New South Wales. This specimen was apparently dead as "prey" in the nest of a much smaller Rhytidoponera sp. The "corpse" stabbed me in the thumb while taking it out.

3 - Manica rubida; native species, sting somewhat like that of a hornet in my experience.

4 - Myrmica rubra; native species. Such a stabbed me in the throat (see text).

5 - Tetramorium impurum; native species. It caused the wheals shown in the pictures above.

Annotation: The ants previously known as Tetramorium impurum or T. caespitum belong to a group of at least 7 different species that are difficult to distinguish morphologically. "Tetramorium cf. impurum" means that it is a species from this group. Since only T. impurum was previously known from high mountain areas (2,000 m!), There is a very high probability that the species treated here was actually T. impurum. Dr. Seifert recently (October 2007) confirmed that the animals should also be included in T. impurum according to the new classification. A DNA analysis for validation is still pending. Another Tetramorium species from T. caespitum / T. impurum group a valid name will be published in the foreseeable future.

(A. Buschinger, October 27, 2007)

Photo report about Pachycondyla apicalis[To edit]

There is one here Picture report about the consequences of stabbing one Pachycondyla apicalis:


Stitch documentation from Myrmecia desertorum[To edit]

A report about an intentionally induced Stick through Myrmecia desertorum:http://www.ameisenforum.de/exoten-ameisenarten/41940-sticherfahrungen-von-beim-berliner-ameisenstammtisch-4-12-2010-a.html

With Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szfqGTVEQZo

Comment and question about the video:

The Myrmecia visibly tries to free itself after the puncture, pulling in different directions, rotating around the stinger, which it does not seem to be able to easily pull out. Unfortunately, the video ends before she is released.

That is absolutely remarkable and in my opinion of documentary value!

Usually a wasp comes, stings, and is gone. A honey bee stays a little longer and then flies off when the sting apparatus is torn out. - Most of the time you hit it or wipe the attacker away as quickly as possible, so that more precise observations are seldom made.

The behavior of the Myrmecia in the video looks like its sting is being held in its skin! Even more: In addition to the guide parts (which are not inserted), such a spike consists of two long, interlocked grooves that work like the blades of two jigsaws next to each other, but in opposite directions. This means that they can be moved in a longitudinal direction, but thanks to the interlocking they form a tube through which the poison is pressed into the wound (so it is not comparable to the rigid cannula of an injection syringe!).

If I imagine such a device stuck in the wound, then when the ant rotates, either the entire tube is moved like a screwdriver (although it is difficult to imagine that it cannot then be pulled out), or the two parts are twisted around each other , or the rotation is compensated for by twisting in the area of ​​the gas tip, on the intricately built, muscular-chitinous base of the piercing bristles.

A lively discussion about the Prickly apparatus has developed here: http://www.ameisenforum.de/exotic-ameisenarten/41940-sticherfahrungen-beim-berliner-ameisenstammtisch-4-12-2010-a.html Several links lead to interesting publications and pictures of the construction of the sting apparatus . 16:40, Dec. 5, 2010 (CET)

Gerhard Kalytta [edit]

It is known that allergy sufferers can die from a bee sting. Despite the fact that a bee sting is painful for most people, usually swells at the puncture site and can cause the average person an uncomfortable burning sensation and itch for a few hours, cases with allergies or even death are extremely rare.

Since I myself have had contact with ants for decades and as a result have been bitten and stung by hundreds of ants of different species, I would like to pass on a few of my own experiences.

I experienced my first ant bites as a toddler in preschool with Myrmica rubra and Tetramorium. In the meantime there have been many other different ant species whose stings and effects I became acquainted with, but I would only like to share a few of them, especially my last photo proof of the sting of Myrmecia pavida.

Stings from Myrmica rubra, Manica rubida and Tetramorium caused me a temporary itch (similar to nettles) with slight wheals. After about hundreds of stitches from Manica rubida on feet and legs, or hands and arms (I wore sandals and shorts and examined their nests), I got this wheal formation at the puncture sites described for a few hours and, once in my life, a temporary one slight "pulling" in the region of the heart. An ant scientist friend of mine had a similar experience with the same ant species and sting frequency.

Pseudomyrmex: Stings of various pseudomyrmex and tetraponera were uncomfortable, with burning pain when stung and then itching for a few hours. Ponerines: Stings from various pachycondyla were usually painful for a short time (like a needle prick), but not persistent. The most painful (with Pachycondyla) was the sting from Pachycondyla tridentata (foaming ponerine from South Asia), where after a few hours I still felt an itch at the puncture site. Many Odontomachus species can also sting uncomfortably (like hot needles), but (for me) without long-term effects.

What is important to me is the "sting experience" with Paraponera clavata, since (according to my own experience) there are quite exaggerated reports about this. I have been bitten four times by Paraponera clavata (always in the wild). All punctures were one-off, which means that they had never previously used up certain amounts of poison on objects or people. I would also like to add that the animals were only ready to sting after intense nest disturbances (in my case). The first stab of Paraponera happened on a finger on the right hand. According to all the descriptions I know, I expected a fever or symptoms of paralysis and therefore wanted to leave the rainforest quickly because I was there alone. My body quickly became hot for a short time (as a result of the shock and my corresponding expectations). Nevertheless, I decided to stay in the forest so as not to "give away" the rest of the day.

The sting of Paraponera was as painful as a bee sting. The finger got hot and I felt it throb for a while. Everything else after that was like a bee sting. After about an hour the hand was well supplied with blood and then gradually cooled down. Maybe I had paid less attention to the effects of the sting because of the many distractions in the rainforest. So as not to drag it out: Then I had three more paraponera stitches, one in my hand, one in my little toe (I was barefoot in sandals) and one in the kidney area, because a paraponera had gotten lost under my shirt and hadn't could continue. All stings had similar effects as the first described sting. The sting in the kidney area was most (locally) swollen, however, as I could only free the stinging animal after undressing the shirt and until then had been constantly injecting its poison in its distress.

Myrmecia: I was stung about 50 times by different Myrmecia species (they are very quickly ready to sting due to their good eyesight and immediate defense). I felt all the punctures like a short syringe at the doctor's, followed by a brief burning sensation but without any long-term effect. (An ant scientist friend of mine felt the same way, who briefly looked after a colony of mine for a film recording and made his first stinging experience with Myrmecia). The usually very fast puncture causes a shock at first, whereby you immediately snap back from the animals, which is probably the intention of these animals.

A few photos, in which I wanted to document the stitch and its effects on one hand, can be seen in this post. I have to add that the documented sting caused the strongest effects (from Myrmecia) on me, certainly because I held the animal for a number of photos while constantly injecting its poison into my finger. The first photo shows the Myrmecia in the position in which it still had its sting in its finger (difficult to see in the photo), which it could hardly pull out without my help.

Myrmecia stab in the finger. The sting can be seen in the first picture (see large view). The entire puncture process took about 1.5 minutes

I do not want to extend the article any further, you can see some things in the photos (with time). Certainly every person reacts differently to ant stings and it is also important which part of the body the ants sting, but I still hope that this article can perhaps correct some exaggerated representations, or show that the body reactions are different and according to my personal Opinion can also have intensifying effects in hysterical people towards these animals. (I am at your disposal if anything is unclear)

Shows the finger after the stab or 10, 30, 60, 120 minutes and 12 hours after the stab.

- Gerhard Kalytta 00:27, Feb 21, 2008 (CET)

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