Thief ants have economic importance because they can naturally control many pest species, like beetles, stalk borers, black cutworms, etc., but are also dangerous due to mutualistic behaviors.
Are Thief Ants Dangerous? Thief ants are dangerous because they contaminate food, spread foodborne pathogens, protect agricultural pests, and are responsible for harm to poultry. They are aggressive, but they rarely bite. You can get rid of them by making greasy baits and borax baits, packing the food properly and sealing entry points, and fixing leakages.
There is a lesser risk of deadly or poisonous stings from these tiny creatures, but you have to be careful of them from contamination aspects.
Why are thief ants dangerous?
They are considered dangerous insects due to contamination risks associated with their tiny bodies and ability to bite humans. Thief ants possess a stinger to sting the prey animals and inject the venom, but it is small enough to cause severe allergic reactions, as only a small amount of venom can be injected.
Protect agricultural pests
Thief ants build mutual relationships with agricultural pests like aphids and help them grow rapidly as these insects protect aphids from predators and get honeydew from them.
Commonly, cotton root aphids, corn root aphids, and some other species, including Aphis seteriae and Aphis middletoni, are the mutualistic species of these ants.
In addition, some scale insects like Dactylopius also live in close association with grease ants and are responsible for damage to prickly pear crops.
Contamination food in pantries
They navigate dirty places like trash bins and reach bathroom floors and sinks in search of moisture, so they carry a lot of germs on their bodies.
Accordingly, they can cause contamination of food pantries after getting introduced to the food containers when they are not correctly packaged.
So, it is considered dangerous for health concerns as humans can get ill after eating contaminated food items.
Risk of irritating bites
Thief ants have bigger polygynous colonies growing rapidly because multiple queens lay eggs. It is pretty dangerous and challenging to deal with such bigger colonies having abilities to bite.
They do not bite often but can become aggressive when you cause disturbance in their mounds or kill their fellows. It feels like an irritation on the affected area that can also lead to swelling.
You cannot use homemade repelling solutions to get rid of their massive colonies and need an insecticidal spray to control their populations.
Spread foodborne pathogens
It is considered to be one of the significant pathogens responsible for the spread of foodborne pathogens and is included in the list of “Dirty 22” pathogens.
They are omnivores and eat a variety of food items, from meat, grease, dairy products, and breads or sweet food items. They have many options to get nutrients and cause contamination.
So, you have to protect your food from grease ants as they can possibly infest the food products in your kitchen cabinets, cupboards, or pantries and cause foodborne illnesses.
Responsible for harm to poultry
They are dangerous for poultry because they serve as intermediate hosts to poultry tapeworms. These insects eat meat when they need a protein-rich diet at the time of reproduction.
Accordingly, thief ants have a parasitic relationship with poultry tapeworms and carry the segments of the tapeworm’s body back to their nests.
Raillietina tetragona is a parasitic poultry tapeworm that attacks the small intestine of chickens belonging to class Cestoda and is consumed by grease ants.
How do you get rid of thief ants?
You can get rid of thief ants by cutting off their food source indoors and preparing toxic baits for these tiny insects that can attract them and cause toxicity after consumption.
Make a greasy bait
Thief ants get attracted to greasy food items, so you can use oily material to kill them. A wax paper or sticky tape can become the substrate that can restrict their movement.
It is difficult for these tiny ants to walk on a slippery surface, and their feet get stuck to sticky surfaces. They cannot move until the surfaces’ stickiness reduces, ultimately leading to death.
Accordingly, take wax paper, put oil on it, and keep it close to the infestation. It can grab the attention of insects when they detect a food source.
The number of oil drops and the size of the wax paper can be increased according to the colony size. You can burn all of them when maximum ants are drawn to the wax paper.
Furthermore, a piece of paper and cardboard can also be used to hold the oil drops, which can be easily burnt to kill these insects.
Keep floor and countertop clean
You can avoid the infestation of grease ants within a kitchen by keeping the floors clean, as these insects get attracted to dirty floors having food crumbs or juice stains.
These insects are omnivorous and feed on various food types, so you have to ensure that the floor and the countertop are clean.
Wipe the countertop with the vinegar and water solution (1:1), as it helps disrupt the trail of insects, and its smell dominates over the odor of pheromones and food aroma.
Seal entry points and fix leakages
Thief ants are small insects and sneak through small spaces in the walls and cabinets. Accordingly, you have to seal the entry points using caulk or glue to restrict their undesired entries.
These insects manage to make their way indoors if they have found a source of water and food inside the building because their smaller size favors them.
The presence of moisture around sinks, wet floors, leaky valves, or faucets can draw them inside the kitchen and bathroom, so you need to fix all water leakages and keep surfaces dry.
Pack the food properly
It is better to pack the food properly if you want to store it for later use because these ants can make their way to the pantries and get inside the packaging by chewing.
Moreover, they can chew soft plastic packaging material and reach sweet or greasy food items to fulfill their body requirements.
You can keep them stored in hard plastic, metal, or ceramic containers, as their small mandibles cannot chew through these hard materials.
In addition, cover the container properly by tightly closing the lid so that it cannot sneak from under the loose lids.
Prepare borax baits
The borax baits also work well to get rid of grease ants, but you have to mix any greasy material with the borax instead of adding sweet sugar as they get attracted to greasy foods.
Accordingly, you have to mix 2 tablespoons of peanut butter into 4 tablespoons of borax and add 4 tablespoons of sugar. Add water to make a proper mixture of ideal thickness.
Allow thief ants to consume bait by placing a small portion of this bait close to their trails or nests. It takes time as foragers take it back to the nest and feed the colony, leading to colony death.