Needle ants pose health and environmental threat

By Peter Kent

Needle antOuch! That ant sting may not be from the usual suspects, fire ants. The Asian needle ant, named for its painful sting, is making itself felt in South Carolina.

More than just irritation, the needle ant is considered a public health concern because some victims have had extreme, even near-fatal reactions to the sting. The ant also is an environmental menace. Its colonies tend to drive out all other ant species, many of which are important ecologically.

Entomologists Pat Zungoli and Eric Benson are researching ways to control the needle ant. To date, they have found it in more than a half-dozen South Carolina counties, ranging from the coast to the Upstate.

While the needle ant has been in the United States for decades, now it has reached a population level that can prove to be a problem. Control measures and research on the ant’s habitat and behavior is necessary to protect the public and to prevent loss of species diversity.

For information: Pat Zungoli, 864-656-3137,