Asian Needle Ant, Pachycondyla chinensis (Emery)

Pachycondyla chinensis (Emery) is an adventive, possibly invasive, ant commonly known in Japan as the giant needle ant because of its sting. In the United States, it is documented from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, and unpublished records of this ant also are available from Tennessee and Alabama.

Here in South Carolina, it is documented in several upstate counties and one coastal county (see map). We have found that when P. chinensis is present in forest and urban habitats in upstate South Carolina, this ant is a dominant species to the exclusion of many native ants commonly found in similar habitats.

In addition to the impact it may have on biodiversity of native species, P. chinensis poses a threat to public health in the United States. Systemic allergic reactions due to P. chinensis stings leading to anaphylaxis previously were documented in Japan and South Korea, and we have documented two cases of anaphylaxis in South Carolina. With reactions that are not life threatening (local to large local reactions), in a survey of 25 sting victims, we found symptoms may last for 2 h to 14 d. Initially, no one in our study knew the source of their stings, but later could readily identify P. chinensis once they learned to recognize it. Therein lays the possible answer to why P. chinensis has not come to our attention before now. We speculate that in many areas of the Southeast when a person is stung by an ant, the sting is attributed to the red imported fire ant because of its prevalence and notoriety.

Currently this ant is relatively unknown even to members of the entomological community in South Carolina and surrounding states, and there is no literature on control strategies to use as a foundation for sound IPM practices. This web site will be updated regularly as information becomes available from our research results and the results of other programs.

Photo 1: Pachycondyla chinensis: top-female swarmer, middle-male swarmer, bottom-common worker (Photograph by E. Paysen)

Photo 2: Pachycondyla chinensis sting (Photograph by E. Paysen)

Photo 3: Local reaction to a Pachycondyla chinensis sting (Photograph by E. Paysen)

Photo 4: Pachycondyla chinensis worker sting (Photograph by E. Paysen)

Links to more information on Pachycondyla chinensis:

Zungoli, P.A., E.S. Paysen, and E.P. Benson. 2006. Pachycondyla chinensis (Emery) an emerging ant pest of medical importance. Clemson University Extension Insect Information Series MV-18.

Nelder, M.E., E.S. Paysen, P.A. Zungoli, and E. P. Benson. 2006. Emergence of the introduced ant, Pachycondyla chinensis (Formicidae: Ponerinae) as a public health threat in the southeastern United States. J. Med. Entomol. 43: 1094-1098.

Paysen, E.S., P.A. Zungoli, and E. P. Benson. 2007. Packing a Punch. Pest Control Technology. April pages 55, 57, 59, and 60.