Asian Ants, Another Invader or Just a Nuisance?
The Asian ant is often referred to as the Asian Needle Ant, which arrived in the United States from Japan around the 1930s but has become prolific in the last few years. It is an external, black, thin, shiny insect that is invasive in the hardwood forests of Eastern North America. They live in colonies from a few dozen up to several thousand. The female is larger than the male and winged with a black body and brown legs and mouth. The smaller male is also winged and light brown in color. Asian ant workers are active from March until October while swarmers are active from May to September. In late October, the Asian ants go beneath the surface to avoid the frigid winter temperatures.
Although it is invasive in South Carolina, it is rarely identified. Typically, when someone is stung in the Southeast, they attribute it to the common fire ant. Thus, Asian ants may be more pervasive than reported. One tell-tale sign of Asian ants is their inability to climb, which is opposite of most ants’ evasive ability to defy gravity. Carefully place them in a plastic container or glass jar. If they have difficulty climbing up the sides, then you may have encountered the Asian ant.
The Asian ant is expanding its’ territory through Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. Its’ primary consequence for humans is painful stings. However, Asian ants reach profuse amounts in forests. They prefer to nest in dark, damp areas under logs, stumps, and other debris in the forest. The Asian ant is a dominant species that overtakes the habitat. They alter the ant community which leads to the exclusion of native ant species. Outside of the forest in more urban settings, people encounter Asian ants in common landscapes such as mulch and concrete pavers.