Invasive Deadly Ant Discovered in Indiana for First Time

An invasive, deadly ant has been discovered by insect experts in Indiana, having ventured the farthest north it has ever been.

The Asian needle ant originally evolved in Asia but was first found in the U.S. in the 1930s. Since then, the species has gradually been spreading throughout the states. They are now found in North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Connecticut, Tennessee and New York.

However this invasive species has now been documented in Indiana for the first time ever, in the Evansville area, The Indianapolis Star reported. And it could be lethal to some people.

Timothy Gibb, a Purdue University entomologist told The Indianapolis Star that usually, stings from this ant will just "hurt like crazy." However for those who are allergic to insect stings from bees or wasps should carry an EpiPen, an auto-injectable device that delivers epinephrine, with them to arm themselves against the ant, Gibb said.

Ant
A stock photo shows a large ant. The Asian needle ant has been spreading throughout the U.S. Ritthichai/Getty Images

According to North Carolina State University, an Asian needle ant sting is more likely to cause an allergic reaction than the venom in a honey bee's sting.

Gibb said it is the first ant to be found in Indiana that has a stinger and venom sac. Currently, there are six other ant species found in Indiana.

"Other ants will bite, but this is really new," he told The Indianapolis Star.

This type of ant can also infest homes where food is present. This means there is a likelihood of people being stung in infested areas.

A species is invasive when it thrives in an environment it is not native to, and has the potential to cause harm to the ecosystems in an area.

While their colonies are not as large as some ant species, the Asian needle ants can live nearly anywhere, causing them to thrive in many environments. They can live in forested areas, nesting under rocks and leaves, or they can live in urban neighborhoods. They have been found nesting under doormats and in plant pots.

The ant species also has a varied diet. It eats termites but will also digest other ants and human trash.

Gibb told The Indianapolis Star that because the ant can infest homes, that will increase its ability to survive in Indiana's cold winter temperatures.

"It also increases the probability of it moving with people, hitchhiking," he said.

Gibb said people in the state should not panic, but they need to be aware of the risks the ant will introduce.

Despite it being lethal to some, North Carolina State University said this ant does the greatest harm to the ecosystems it invades.

Ants maintain vital roles in maintaining their native ecosystems. Ants can turn and aerate soil, which allows oxygen to reach the routes of plants. However this invasive species will potentially exclude the native ant species in the state, by eating them or their food. The invasive ant may also take over nest sites, driving out the native ants.