Why be afraid of ants? They’re tiny, and don’t really do much harm, except maybe when they get in your pants, right? Consider this: It’s said that ants have a combined biomass that is, by some accounts, larger than that of humans. What this means is, if you are to take the combined weight of all human beings on planet Earth, and place it on a scale with the combined weight of all the ants, the ants would tip the scale their way. Yeah, think about that for a second.
The ant family, comprising all the species, numbers a mind-boggling 10,000,000,000,000,000. That’s ten thousand TRILLION. Humans check in at a relatively measly 7 billion. These creatures are as old as the dinosaurs, estimated to have scurried about approximately 110-130 million years ago. They survived the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs. They can lift up to fifty times their own body weight, and live in vast, interconnected colonies wherein they coordinate their activities with superlative precision. The question of whether ants are harmful to humans gains a little more urgency with these little facts in mind, doesn’t it?
The most fearsome bite in the ant species context belongs to the much-feared fire ant. Many ants will bite you and spray formic acid on the wound created (what causes its persistent sting). After which, they will proceed to inject a toxic alkaloid venom through a stinger on their abdomen. Now, formic acid is relatively harmless in itself, except for the discomfort it causes. But the fire ant’s venom, in sufficient quantities or hypersensitive, allergic individuals, can put you in the hospital. So, unless you are absolutely swarmed by them or are extremely sensitive, you are more or less safe on this count.
These denizens of the dirt don’t vector any diseases save for those that infect them specifically. As a matter of fact, ants are entirely edible and can provide a very good source of protein should you find yourself hard pressed for lunch.
Hygiene risks of ant infestation
Ants are surprisingly clean creatures, regularly cleaning themselves. You may be concerned that ants crawling over your food might pose a risk to you should you happen to ingest said food, but the chances of that happening are slim enough to be entirely discounted. It might ruin your picnic, but a few ants crawling over your sandwich is nothing to worry about.
So to the question of whether ants are harmful to humans, maybe the answer should be a tentative no. That’s unless they decide this planet isn’t big enough for the both of us. Then we’d be in trouble.
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