Invasive ant species capable of biting and stinging discovered in Evansville for the first time | News
Now don’t panic, but there’s a spooky new crawly in town, and even though he’s smaller than a fingernail, he’s got some expert crawling.
It is an invasive species native to Asia and previously found in the eastern and southern United States, but has now traveled farther north than ever and has just claimed Evansville as its latest settlement.
A group of amateur entomologists from River City found the bug in a natural wooded area and contacted the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. He was then sent to Purdue and underwent diagnostic tests to confirm his identity.
“It’s brand new to our area. It’s an invasive ant,” said Purdue University entomologist Timothy Gibbs. “People are going to say, ‘Well, what’s up with ants? We’ve got our share of ants anyway,’ but this particular species has a very unique behavior for our area.”
Gibbs is the one who positively identified the insect.
He talks about the Asian needle ant.
“He has both the ability to bite and sting,” Gibbs said.
That’s right. The pesky little pest packs all the punch.
In rare cases, for those who are hyper-allergic to stings, the ant’s venom can be harmful and cause anaphylactic shock, but for most people its sting, although worse than its bite, will most likely be painful. .
“They’ll probably see the ant, get stung, and you know, maybe some swearing,” Gibbs said.
Angela Rust, a local natural resources inspector with IDNR’s plant pathology and entomology division, said the Asian ant was not a concern because it’s usually too cold for the insect to survive in Indiana.
She said that as of now, the ant is not considered a pest of regulatory significance as it is widespread in other parts of the country.
Gibbs disagrees. Besides biting and stinging, he said the ant, unlike other similar ones, can thrive not only outdoors but also indoors.
“It can live in homes and we’re tempering the environment there so they don’t get that cold, damp condition that will limit the spread of other ants,” he said.
Well, that’s comforting.
But don’t bug yet. An ant is an ant, isn’t it? There are ways to keep them away.
“Just try to keep things clean and do your dishes right away and put your food away,” said Leigh Ramon, animal curator at Mesker Park Zoo. “If you have dead bodies, either leaves or branches and tree branches for them to take shelter in.”
Ramon said you’d probably want to remove them, but if they’re infesting your property, don’t turn to pesticides.
“It can do a lot of harm to the environment and other species that are good in the area,” Ramon said.
The ant is still new to the area, so experts say only time will tell how troublesome it could be, but it’s here now.
“Biology finds a way, as they say in Jurassic Park,” Ramon said.
The best advice? Just try to avoid it.
But if something ends up bothering you, who knows? It could just be the Asian ant.
IDNR encourages anyone stung to report incidents to their local Purdue extension office or IDNR Entomology Division by calling this toll-free number 666-639-684 or emailing pictures at [email protected]