Five Reasons to Hate Argentine Ants

An Argentine ant super-colony stretches 560 miles along the California coast. Our clients live in the middle of it.

Argentine Ant Supercolony California

Ever wonder why it is so difficult to get rid of ants?

Answer: You are surrounded.

An Argentine ant super-colony stretches from Mexico to Ukiah. This super-colony is formed of closely related smaller colonies that do not compete with each other. As soon as you manage to eliminate one colony, another colony nearby is ready to take their place. It takes constant vigilance to control Argentine ants.

Five Reasons to Hate Argentine Ants

1. Argentine ants eat what we do. They prefer sweets but will eat almost anything including meat, egg, oil and fat. Also, when foraging for food, Argentine ants leave pheromone trails everywhere they go, instead of just from nest to food source. This efficient habit ensures they do not waste time visiting the same area twice.

2. Argentine ants nest just about anywhere.  The worker ants are 1/16″ to 1/4″ long and easily squeeze through the smallest cracks and holes. They nest in the ground, in cracks in concrete walls, in spaces between boards and timbers, and in your house!

3. Argentine ants farm aphids. Argentine ants sometimes tend aphid colonies in gardens. They protect aphids from predators (we’ve seen them stage group attacks on ladybugs). Argentine ants become aphid farmers in order to feast off the aphid excretion known as honeydew.

4. Argentine ants are good reproducers. Argentine ant colonies have as many as eight reproductive queens for every 1,000 workers. Colonies reproduce by budding off into new units. As few as ten workers and a single queen can establish a new colony. Theses sister colonies don’t compete with each other…that’s how the California super-colony got started.

5. Argentine ants wipe out native ants. “Argentine ants are not good neighbors. When they meet ants from another colony, any other colony, they fight to the death, and tear the other ants to pieces. While other kinds of ants sometimes take slaves or even have sex with ants from different colonies, the Argentine ants don’t fool around. If you’re not part of the colony, you’re dead.”—Radiolab.org

About the Author:

Garrett Thrasher is Vice President and General Manager of Thrasher Termite & Pest Control of So Cal, Inc., Chairperson of the San Diego District of the Pest Control Operators of California (PCOC), a member of the bedbugFREE network, and a member of the National Pest Management Association. Author of The Bed Bug Battle Plan: Field Tested Solutions for Bed Bug Extermination and Prevention (ISBN: 1500838209), Garrett’s solid understanding of bed bugs, their behavior, current outbreaks, and experience on camera has made him a leading contact for news and media outlets. He is also a sought after speaker on the topic of managing online reviews for positive impact. He has spoken at PestWorld and PestTech, and was featured in PCT Magazine and the PCT Podcast. Thrasher Termite & Pest Control of So Cal is accredited by QualityPro–the mark of excellence in pest management.

5 Comments

  1. […] Five Reasons to Hate Argentine Ants […]

  2. […] are region specific. In California, the insect that generates the most calls from customers is the Argentine ant. Termites are also very common. There are different species of termites depending on which area of […]

  3. Dave February 16, 2015 at 11:12 am - Reply

    You forgot to mention that

    1) Argentinian ants can eradicate termite colonies
    2) Argentinian ants do not bite or sting humans and are quite harmless
    3) Annoying kitchen invasions can be easily thwarted by following
    ants to the point of entry and placing Clarks ant stake at that point—
    incoming ants will take the bait and return to the queen.
    Ants in the kitchen area can be killed by spraying with Spic ‘n Span, or
    other surface cleaner. Ants on floor can be vacuumed up.

    The points you mention about Argentinian ants are true as far as they go—
    but hardly a reason to “hate” Argentinian ants.

    As a long time resident of California, I can tell you that the native ants
    that the Argentinian ants have replaced can sting like hell.

    I know, balance of nature and all of that, but migration and competition
    between ant species is quite natural.

    Survival of the fittest. Remember that?

    • Garrett Thrasher February 18, 2015 at 3:09 pm - Reply

      We forgot to mention many things in our Argentine ant post; however, there is no scientific evidence that Argentine ants attack termite colonies. 1) This is an internet rumor. 2) One’s position on whether or not Argentine ants are harmless depends upon your stance on native versus non-native species and the importance of biodiversity. We’re not alone in considering Argentine ants very harmful. Argentine ants are one of the world’s worst invasive alien species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In California, by eliminating the native ant diet of the coast horned lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum), Argentine ants have further imperiled this engendered lizard and they have negatively impacted the important seed dispersal function of the native Western harvester ant–two more reasons to hate them. 3) Regarding kitchen invasions, your information about baiting is correct (except that there is no product under the brand name you mentioned). Argentine ants are best managed with bait and exclusion (closing the entry points to your kitchen).

      Finally, you are correct that migration and competition between ant species is natural; however, Argentine ants did not migrate to North America. They were introduced to North America through human activity and thereby leapfrogged all the competitive skirmishes that would have impacted their migration. (To go Mr. Science on you, this is called “long-distance jump dispersal.”)

      According to IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group, these are the general impacts of Argentine ants:

      While the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) is associated with disturbed habitats throughout its introduced range, it can penetrate native habitats that have experienced little human disturbance. Examples include: matorral in Chile, fynbos in South Africa, coastal sage scrub in southern California, riparian woodlands in California, subalpine shrubland in Hawaii, and oak and pine woodland in Portugal (Fuentes 1991, Bond and Slingsby 1984, Suarez Bolger and Case 1998, Ward 1987, Holway 1998, Cole et al. 1992, in Suarez Holway and Case 2001).
      L. humile is a dominant ant and an aggressive competitor. It has displaced native ant species in an ecologically sensitive area in Spain (Carpintero et al. 2005) and has been associated with local extinctions of native ants in California (Suarez Bolger and Case 1998). Californian ants that are especially sensitive to displacement are army ants (Neivamyrmex spp.) and harvester ants (genera Messor and Pogonomyrmex), both of which are important ecosystem regulators (Suarez Bolger and Case 1998). Monomorium species, such as M. ergatogyna, may persist because of their chemical defences or their tolerance of higher temperatures (Holway 1999, Adams and Traniello 1981, Andersen et al. 1991, in Holway et al. 2002a). In introduced regions L. humile may be displaced by the red imported fire ant (Solenopis invicta), another invasive ant (Holway et al. 2002a).
      Invasive ants have a great potential to alter ecosystem processes, including ant-mediated seed dispersal or plant pollination. In California the removal of seeds produced by the myrmecochorous (ant-dispersed) tree poppy Dendromecon rigida is less in areas inhabited by the Argentine ant (L. humile) than in areas inhabited by the common harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex subnitidus) (Carney et al. 2003). A similar outcome has occured in the South African fynbos, where the displacement of large native ants by L. humile has lead to a reduction in the dispersal of large ant-dispersed seeds and a reduction in the reproduction of those plants (Christian 2001, Holway et al. 2002a).
      Native arthropods are greatly threatened by Argentine ants. In South Africa, the Argentine ant can collect up to 42% of available nectar before bees can forage (Buys 1987, in Holway et al. 2002a). In Hawaii the Argentine ant reduces numbers of many native arthropods, including essential pollinators (Cole et al. 1992, in Krushelnycky et al. 2004), the loss of which could threaten insect-pollinated plants such as the endangered “silversword” (Argyroxiphium spp.)

      Sorry Dave, we still hate Argentine ants!

  4. Toby December 15, 2016 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    I own a pest control providing company on the east coast in Jacksonville, NC, and have dealt with Argentine Ants on the west coast a couple of times, and have seen that they can eradicate termites, and are also somewhat harmless as well. You do have a good argument though, they can eat almost anything. Amazing little creatures.

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