Thief ants are tiny ants that got their name because they tend to “steal” food from larger ants. But do these tiny insects also bite humans? Here’s what you need to know about thief ants and dealing with them in your home.
What Are Thief Ants?
Thief ants (Solenopsis molesta) are very small ants, measuring between 1-2 mm in length. They are yellowish-brown to black in color.
Some key facts about thief ants:
- Get their name from stealing food from larger ant colonies
- Attracted to sweets and proteins
- Nest outdoors but will forage indoors for food
- Colonies can contain hundreds to thousands of ants
Do Thief Ants Bite?
Thief ants have mandibles like other ant species that they use to bite. However, their bites are generally not felt by humans because of how small they are.
Some key points about bites:
- Thief ants can bite but won’t break human skin
- The bites are harmless and do not transmit diseases
- You may notice small red marks from bites but they are not painful
- Thief ants are unlikely to bite humans unless provoked or threatened
So while thief ants are capable of biting, their tiny size means they can’t bite through human skin. The bites are more of a nuisance than an actual health threat.
When Might Thief Ants Bite?
Thief ants typically avoid confrontation with humans. But here are some cases where they may bite:
- If ants get trapped against your skin or in clothing, they may bite in self-defense
- Disturbing a thief ant nest may provoke bites as they defend the colony
- Handling thief ants directly can result in bites as they try to escape
But again, their small mandibles mean these bites will not puncture skin or cause pain. Thief ant bites are generally nothing to worry about for humans.
How to Get Rid of Thief Ants
While thief ant bites are mostly just a nuisance, an infestation in your home can be annoying and difficult to eliminate. Here are some tips for getting rid of thief ants:
Find and eliminate food sources:
- Store food in sealed containers and clean up spills right away
- Keep surfaces clean and wipe up crumbs or residue after eating
- Don’t leave pet food out overnight
- Take out the garbage regularly
Seal entry points:
- Caulk or seal cracks and crevices around your home’s exterior
- Weather strip doors and windows
- Fix leaky pipes or faucets
Set out ant baits:
- Use sweet or protein-based bait to attract thief ants
- Try liquid baits placed along foraging trails
- Maintain baits regularly until ant activity stops
Inspect for nests:
- Check damp areas of the home for nests and eliminate them
- Focus on spaces near heat sources like HVAC units or appliances
- Remove any wood debris or mulch that could hide outdoor nests
Persistence is key when getting rid of thief ants. Combining good sanitation and sealing entry points with baits will provide the best results. Consider contacting a pest control professional if you continue seeing significant ant activity.
The Bottom Line
Thief ants can deliver annoying bites with their tiny mandibles, but they pose little real threat to humans. Their small size prevents them from breaking skin. While bites may appear as small red marks, they do not typically cause pain or transmit disease. The best approach is keeping thief ants out of your home through good sanitation and sealing entry points. But rest assured their bites are just a nuisance and not a safety concern.