Do Ants Carry Disease?

ants-carry-disease Credit: Faris Algosaibi/CC-BY-2.0

Ants do not carry disease. Ants groom themselves often and keep both their feet and antennae extraordinarily clean.

Ants have a lipid layer that covers their exoskeleton that makes it difficult for them to retain bacteria. In addition to their meticulous grooming habits, this layer makes ants one of the cleaner members of the animal kingdom. Ants also secrete powerful antimicrobial chemicals both in their external glands and through their saliva. Because of all these factors, ants themselves are not at risk for diseases and cannot carry diseases that can impact humans or other animals.

Although ants do not carry diseases, the red-colored fire ant can cause discomfort to humans through their bite. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that people with mobility problems ensure that they are free of fire ants to avoid sustaining multiple bites. Luckily, these more dangerous ants are typically not found within the home. Because they prefer sun-exposed areas in the outdoors, they usually are found in yards and parks. Fire ants sometimes create large mounds which can be eliminated through various treatments sold in retail stores. The discomfort from a fire ant sting has been documented in medical literature since 1957. Despite the discomfort they can cause, fire ants do not carry any diseases.