Argentine Ant Facts: Identification + Supercolony

The Argentine ant is also known as Linepithema humile. This is an insect native to Argentina, Paraguay, southern Brazil, and Uruguay. It is most common in Mediterranean climates.

These ants mostly migrate aboard ships containing sugar and coffee. They compete highly with the fire ants and therefore are not numerous in areas where these are highly populated. They thrive in damp and temperate coastal regions.

Argentine Ants Facts Identification + Supercolony
Argentine Ant Facts

Argentine ant facts

The Argentine ants exist in vast varieties and can be found in various agricultural systems. Argentine ants are not aggressive among colonies within the same species. Different colonies can work well together to develop a supercolony.

The worker ants are very fast and also quite aggressive. They can out-do other ant species when it comes to competition for resources.

They are known to be great pests in commercial beekeeping. A day is enough for them to overtake a beehive or even two. Other facts concerning them include:

  1. They were first discovered in 1866 in Buenos Aires, Argentina
  2. Since they were discovered, they have been widely distributed and are found in different countries around the world on different continents as well as islands.
  3. The male Argentine ants only exist to mate and once they do they die.
  4. The ants are most suitable for urban settings and are hard to control.
  5. In the United States, they are most common in California
  6. They protect insects that produce honeydew thus interfering with their control. Where they are, aphids and whiteflies will thrive.
  7. They could plug irrigation systems
  8. They rarely destroy crops directly.
  9. The worker ants do not have wings

Argentine ants diet

These ants are fond of sweet things but feed on any food. Hard yolks of boiled eggs are among their favorite. They can be seen carrying minute yellow clumps on their way back to the nest as they follow each other in endless columns.

The ants pose a threat to wildlife as they upset the food web. Their behavior is aggressive and the enormous size of their colonies make it possible for them to team up with other colonies.

Argentine ant queen

The Argentine ants are a unique lot. They tend to be tolerant of different colonies close to them. A single colony at times gets too large such that they end up forming supercolonies.

For this to happen, the Argentine ant queen will mate inside the nest. They then leave with a small group of worker ants to start a new colony. The different colonies are known to be close. They at times share worker ants and can even team up to fight their enemies.

Individual ant colonies can have more than one ant queen. In a population of 1000 ants, there can be 15 queen ants. These mate with the males to make the colony populous. The male ants exist for the sole purpose of mating and usually live for around a year. Once they mate they die.

When the queens lay eggs, it is the work of the sterile female ants to nurse the eggs, feed the larvae, forage for food and tend honey dew producing insects for their secretions.

The queens are often found along the ant trails. A single colony is normally made up of around 90 percent worker ants and 10 percent queens.

Argentine ants fighting

In most cases, ants are known to fight members from outside their colonies. This though may not be the case with Argentine ants.

This could be due to the fact that these ants have been spread over continents and they have tight ties forming supercolonies. This makes it easy to form single groups with loyalty to each other.

The insects due to their homogeneity welcome far flung relatives and live cohesively. They however fight bees and can easily overtake their hives. The harvester ants are also seen as their enemies and will be fought out of existence.

Argentine ants identification

The Argentine ants are dark brown in color. There also are some known to be yellowish or reddish.  They have a hinged antennae with 12 segments and have six legs. Their eyes are on the lower part of the head making the widest point of the head to be above the eyes.

The ants have a fairly hairless head and thorax. Their mandibles contain five to eight teeth. Argentine ants move fast in continuous trails that are well defined.

When crashed, they tend to produce a slight greasy odor just like odorous ants do. For unmated individuals, a presence of four wings may be seen which are normally whitish with brown veins. The male wings have a sigma.

Their nests are not usually easily identifiable. These can be found in bird nests, beehives, rotting wood, or stumps. However, when there is environmental stress, they invade other structures and homes. Their most preferred place of nesting is on moist litter or on organic mulch.

Argentine ants supercolony

Societies in the animal kingdom are characterized by their capacity to distinguish members from outsiders. Ants tend to be different in that they form anonymous societies. It is not necessary for them to tell apart outsiders to remain unified.

Instead, insects rely on cues to recognize their members. These allow the societies to grow in to large populations growing to millions in some colonies. These with time form one a populous, expansive and long lasting society which is described as a supercolony.

In ants, the shared recognition cues are the defining criteria for the supercolonies.  They are what enable them to remain as a single society irrespective of how large they become. The Argentine ants are the best studied ants with supercolonies.  

These supercolonies are invasive and can contain billions of worker ants and queens spreading over many kilometers in vast regions that have suitable habitats.

One of their defining characteristic is their capacity to undergo unrestricted growth. The wide populations are believed to be collections of independent nest clusters forming the colonies.

These ants do not inter-breed within colonies. Although ants are known to be highly territorial, those within the same supercolonies tolerate each other  even if they live hundreds of miles from each other. Each supercolony though is distinctive and the ants can recognize each other using their chemical composition.  

Argentine ant infestation  

The Argentine ants are household pests that are common. They infest a place in search of water and food and are most common in the warm weather. They also get into the house when it is raining and their nests are flooded.

These ants have a nesting behavior that sees them have a number of queens in each colony. As a result, spraying them with insecticides as a way of eradicating the infestation is impractical. At times, this may even end up stimulating an increase in the eggs laid thus increasing the problem.

To successfully control an Argentine ant infestation, one requires to exploit their dietary habits. Since they are omnivorous, making use of dietary baits will see to it that they are slowly poisoned.

When well executed, a slow acting bait will be carried to the nest by the workers. This will end up killing a whole colony including the queens and their young ones.

It is also possible to make use of chemical control of an infestation. This makes use of the scent of the ants against themselves. It involves covering them with a hydrocarbon-lace secretion which leads the insects to kill any member with it. This is an effective method that can be used in combination with other methods.

How to get rid of Argentine ants

In case you are facing an ant infestation and are wondering how to kill Argentine ants, there are a number of control methods. Baits are known to be quite effective.

It is recommended that slow baits are used to ensure that the ants carry them to their colony for distribution of the poison. This helps in eliminating the colony from within which includes the queen ants.

The use of pesticide sprays on Argentine ants is discouraged as it only kills the worker ants. It is also believed that this kind of control could cause the queen ants to lay more eggs as they feel the stress on the colony and work towards its preservation.

Argentine ant bait 

When it comes to Argentine ant baits, it is best to use professional products. While some over-the-counter products may work, it is possible to come across some that contain ingredients that are not as effective as the attractants used in professional ones. It is best to settle for quality baits to effectively eliminate these ants.

The KM Ant Pro Bait Dispenser is a liquid bait dispenser that is quite effective with Gourmet liquid ant bait and is suitable for outdoors baiting.

It provides a long term solution for control of the ants. For indoor services, one could make use of Gourmet Ant Bait Gel or Advion Ant Gel. These need to be used for a prolonged period of time for results to be seen.

How to Get Rid of Argentine Ants

Due to the nature of their existence, Argentine ants can be hard to control. It takes a lot of efforts to get rid of them or at least prevent them from increasing.

Upon noticing their presence, one should trim trees, vegetation, bushes and brushes around the home. This is because all these help in moisture retention which is an attractant of the ants.

A thorough inspection of crevices should also be done and once found they should be sealed to prevent the ants from making their way through them. Just like the fire ants or the Pharao, Argentine ants are very organized and they work in groups to ensure their colonies thrive.

Here is a video about Argentine ants: