Argentine Ants

Argengine ants are one of many different varieties of those pesky little insects that insist on living in our homes and yards.  

Originally from South American countries like Northern Argentina, Paraguay, Southern Brazil, Argentine ants are an invasive species of ant.  They have been introduced to the United Sates, Europe and other countries by humans as early as the late 1800’s by way of “catching a ride” with ships carrying coffee from South America.   At present, in the United States, they are most readily located in Southern California and our Southern States.  The main reason they have not covered more ground in the United States more quickly, being the fire ant population that fight for their own control and are harder to overrun than other ant species.

Argentine ants are very aggressive, in the United States regions, toward other specias of ants and take over areas by either killing the other species or “running them off”.  They then invade that area, moving into the displaced ants nesting sites or in crack s in walls, loose leaves, beneath small stones, or in crevices in houses.  One of the main reasons that these ants are so successful in relocating in new countries and areas is their lack of agression toward other Argentine ants, even those that differ from area to area.

In the ant world, this is a rare behavior.  Most ants do not interact socially or otherwise with other ant colonies no matter which species of ant they are.  The Argentine ant, even though in diverse locations, can and will “mingle” with each other thus introducting even more colonies at a faster rate and over a greater territory.  This behavior is known as “unicoloniality” by scientists.  this means that the individuals in the colony of Argentine ants mix with each other even in nests that are not located together.  For this reason, Argentine ants are one of the world’s top invader species.  They effectively get rid of all native ants in an area and overrun that area for themselves.  

This “invading”  behavior is proving to be detrimental to the ecosystems of places like Southern California.  The food chain, for example, of animals like the horned lizards whose survival depends a lot upon Harvester ants, is being altered as Argentine ants are now displacing those Harvesters.  The ants are also causing problems in areas of crop production.  The ants provide somewhat of a protection, for certain insects, from parasites that usually control their numbers.  This means a more trouble free environment for those insects to cause more damage to plants and crops.

Worker Argentine ants are only a twelf to an eighth of an inch long on average.  They are dark brown with the males being somewhat larger and darker.  The males also have wings.  The queen ants are large, brown, and may have darker stomach areas.  They may have wings also.  Male Argentine ants only live a few weeks, but workers can live much longer, 7 – 9 months.  The queens can live for many years!  Argentine ants in the United States have, among others, a method of reproducing called “budding”.  The ants from different colonies fly to find one another.  Or, if the queen Argentine ant loses her wings, one of the males within her colony may mate with her, starting a new colony very similar to the original.  These mating behaviors have advanced the Argentine ant to various areas, very quickly!

Following are some links to areas having further information on Argentine ants.  This information defines more of the stability and ingenuity of the Argentine ant’s “move” throughout various countries of the world.  Some also have some very good information on trying to rid your area of Argentine ants as they are very difficult to be rid of once they “move in”.  So, read on and learn more about this one very important “supercolony” social insect!