Argentine ants on a leaf

All about Argentine ants

Argentine Ant WEIf you have ever looked down at the ground, and seen a thriving, swarming, twisting colony of ants crawling over a scrap of food, you have some idea of how ants behave.

Ants create huge colonies, usually underground, with very carefully designated and assigned roles.

An average ant’s life is spent creating more ants and finding food for the colony. Ants work together constantly to bring food back to the nest. That’s why you can often see so many ants congregating together in a single colony.

Have you ever seen an ant colony that seemed to have thousands of ants? Now, try to stretch your imagination. Imagine a colony of ants even bigger. Not millions. Not billions. Imagine a nest of ants numbering in the many hundreds of trillions. Trillions of tiny ants crawling around a nest that extends for hundreds of miles in all directions.

You have now entered the world of the Argentine Ant.

An invasive species

Argentine Ants are what is known as an invasive species. They are not native to most of the areas where they are now found. Originally the ants were found in Argentina (as their name implies), but also Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil and other South American countries.

However, these industrious little creatures found their way into shipping crates and goods that got transported around the world.

Argentine ants are very hearty creatures and now thrive in locations all around the planet. They are now found in South Africa, New Zealand, Easter Island, Japan, across parts of Europe, in Hawaii and along the coast of California.

The negative impact of Argentine ants

Because they are invasive, however, that also means they can be harmful to the environment. Argentine ants often push other, native, ant colonies right out of the area. This creates a problem for other species, as some of those displaced ants are beneficial to other creatures, such as lizards.

Native plants also become dependent on certain ants. Without those ants, the plants no longer get the benefits. It is thought that the reduction in the population of the horned lizard native to Southern California is because of Argentine Ants.

Argentine Ants also like to set up symbiotic relationships with certain species of aphids. Aphids live on and eat plants, but they also secrete a sweet substance known as honeydew that Argentine Ants just love. In exchange for protection from other predators, the aphids provide the honeydew. This causes an explosion in the aphid population that then leads to more damage to plants and crops.

world map

A global super Argentine ant colony

A scientific journal known as Insectes Sociaux published a study in 2009 that looked at three huge colonies of Argentine Ants. One of them was in Europe and stretched nearly 4,000 miles. Another colony went on for over 500 miles along the coast of California, while the third was located on the west coast of Japan. Scientists believed that they saw similarities between these colonies.

It turns out they were right.

The study explored the genetic makeup of the ants. They also studied the grooming behavior andnon-aggressive attitudes of the ants. They noticed that introducing ants from one of the colonies into a mixture of ants from another caused the “intruders” to thrive and be accepted by the ants rather than attacked.

After extensive study, the scientists were left to conclude one thing: these were all part of the same ant colony. They had probably been distributed to the various locations via international commerce, but the world was home to a global mega-colony numbering in the hundreds of trillions.

Argentine ants rarely attack one another

Argentine ants tend to act just like every other ant. They are a common pest in homes across California and other warmer U.S. states. The pests enter residences looking for food and become a nuisance as soon as they find acceptable living conditions and set up a scent trail. They are small and brownish in color and usually not even an inch long. However, they gather in such huge numbers, they can become a real nuisance.

One thing Argentine ants tend not to do, however, is fight each other. There are exceptions, and scientists have found skirmishes between huge colonies between two territories near San Diego, but Argentine ants do not fight nearly as often as other ant species.

In other ant species, member of other colonies are treated as intruders and attacked mercilessly, even if they are the same species. This seems not to happen among Argentine Ants, perhaps due to their similar genetic makeup and familial ties. Instead, they tend to welcome new ants and quickly incorporate them into their nests.

Argentine ant queen

Just like in other ant colonies, the queen is the leader of the Argentine ant colony, responsible for populating the colony by laying countless numbers of eggs. Colonies can have hundreds of queens and they mate with the male ants only for reproductive purposes. Argentine ants reproduce through budding, a process different than other ant species. This is when queens and males mate inside of the parent nest. Afterward, they leave with a few workers to start a brand new nest. This kind of rapid reproduction and interconnected nests can form huge supercolonies that contain millions of ants!

Do Argentine Ants bite?

Thankfully, this ant species does not have a stinger as some others do. However, they will bite humans if provoked, though not severe and without posing any health risks. The only serious threat these pests cause is food contamination. Argentine ants will crawl over trash, sewage and dead animals while on the hunt for their next meal.

How to get rid of Argentine ants

When it comes to trying to control Argentine Ants, their hearty and resilient nature makes getting rid of an ant colony invasion around your home difficult. In fact, during their initial nesting phase, trying to use over-the-counter chemicals to treat the ant colonies tends to trigger an egg-laying instinct that actually causes the colony to grow.

That’s why, if you find that you have an ant problem and suspect that it might be Argentine Ants, it’s best to call in the professionals, such as the experienced exterminators at Western Exterminator. We have the right tools and methods to stop an Argentine Ant colony from expanding and invading your home.

Mr. Little

He’s represented Western for nearly a century. But he’s no old fogey. Follow Mr. Little’s blog for pest tips and facts!

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