Do Ants Carry Diseases?

By Chris Williams on June 17, 2015.

Probably the most interesting aspect to me of my chosen career field of entomology has been the relationship insects play in public and animal health. Blood-feeding insects and other arthropods are very efficient disease vectors. Cockroaches and flies can be good ‘mechanical’ disease vectors because they often frequent unsanitary conditions and can transport many different species of pathogenic microorganisms to surfaces.

Cockroaches and other insects can be potent triggers for asthma also. Ants were the number one pest concern of respondents of a 2010 survey.

So do ants carry diseases?

Opinions on the answer to this question are all over the place. Some say no, because of ant’s fastidious grooming habits. Taking a look at the literature, ants can an do carry diseases, but it depends on where the colony is ‘working.’ Studies conducted in Brazilian hospitals have shown ants to be an effective mechanical vector (contaminating surfaces) for many different pathogenic microorganisms. They are clearly associated with hospital borne illnesses.

That is the bad news part of the story.  You don’t want to catch a hospital-acquired disease, so stay out of hospitals.  The good news part of my investigation is that I found nothing about ants foraging in your kitchen during the spring, that mentioned anything about carrying infectious diseases. For nuisance ant control, contact the pros at Colonial Pest Control.

Photo credit: siraf72 / Foter / CC BY

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