There are several species of stinging and biting ants in Houston. Some species, like fire ants, are well known and well established in the city. More recently, species such as Asian needle ants have moved in and are becoming more of a problem.
All species of stinging and biting ant in Houston should be taken very seriously. Their bites can be very painful and all of these ants will swarm when they feel their nest is under threat. If you have problems with these ants in your yard, do not attempt to treat them yourself. Call in an experienced professional.
Asian needle ants are a relatively new species of invasive ant that are rapidly becoming well-established in Houston. These are large, black, shiny ants that build large, loose mounds above ground. While Asian needle ants are not as aggressive as fire ants, their sting is incredibly painful and can cause swelling and blistering that can persist for weeks after the sting. The venom of Asian needle ants is powerful enough to produce anaphylactic shock in susceptible people, and so anyone allergic to bee or wasp stings should consider these ants to be highly dangerous.
Asian needle ants are very aggressive towards other ant species, and once they are established in a territory they can quickly become the dominant ant species in the area. Their one redeeming quality is their diet, which includes as many termites as they can eat. In Houston, this means that these ants will often be found in areas like the Heights or the Woodlands that are particularly susceptible to termites and also have open areas for the ants to to nest in.
Call a professional. Treat these ants with extreme caution. Avoid any contact with their mounds and never wear sandals or other open-toed shoes in areas where you suspect infestation.
Fire ants are smallish, red or reddish brown ants that build distinctive large, dome-shaped mounds. They prefer moist areas and will often nest near roadsides or highways. These ants are an invasive species that entered America from a ship docked in Mobile, Alabama in the 1930s and have since become firmly established across the entire Southeastern United Sates. Fire ants have a very painful bite that produces a sensation like burning, hence their name, and when they feel threatened they will swarm to attack. Their attack consists of latching their jaws into the skin of the attacker and then spraying venom into the wound. Because of this clinging bite, they can be difficult to brush off when that are attacking. An attack by fire ants usually results in multiple bites, and they can even kill small animals.
Fire ants are known for their unusually aggressive behavior. They will swarm if their mound is disturbed in most any way. Apart from the danger of attack when approaching the mound, their burrows also extend deep under ground over a large area, and the queen may be as far as 6 to 8 feet below the surface. Colonies can also have multiple queens, and unless all of these are eliminated the colony will quickly reestablish itself. Because of the danger and difficult of eliminating these pests, call in a pest control professional if you see fire ants on your lawn.
Red harvester ants are usually light red in color and can be extremely damaging to lawns. They also have a powerful sting, and will swarm when they feel their nest is threatened. Red Harvesters can be extremely destructive to lawns. They nest underground, but they'll strip the ground above their nests of any vegetation to capture more of the sun's warmth. Because their nests can be up to 40 feet in diameter, a single colony can essentially destroy an entire lawn.
Red harvester ants also have a nasty sting. When they feel their nest is under attack, they will swarm and attack the invader. Their stings are painful and can even be lethal to small animals. They can essentially make large sections of a lawn uninhabitable.
Getting rid of red harvester ants involves getting rid of the queen. Baits and powders can sometimes work in getting rid of them, but calling in a professional to get deep into the colony is the most effective way to rid your lawn of red harvester ants.