Ants are small insects that belong to the insect Order Hymenoptera. Some species of ants have developed close association with human dwellings. See the complete list of the common household ants.
Scientifically known as Linepithema humile the Argentine ant is an invasive species that colonize home and structures in many parts of the world. They originated from Latin America particularly in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay where they are found in great abundance. However they can be found in various part of the world. Argentine ants are considered among the most invasive animal species. Unlike many social insects, Argentine ant colony can have several reproductive queens. This has a significant impact in the rapid development of the population. Argentine ants can invade home, restaurants and can contaminate food. They have a particular preference for sweet food. Controlling Argentine ants can be a little bit challenging once they have established a steady colony. It is believed that some pesticides can stimulate their population growth.
Characteristics of the Argentine ant
The Argentine ant present several color variation, but in general, it is light or dark brown depending probably on the geographical location. The size of Linepithema humile range from 2.2 to 2.8 mm. The antennae have typically 12 segments. The queens are usually very small in size as compared to other ants species. Their size typically ranges from 1/6 to 1/4 inches in length. Argentine ant colonies are fairly large as compared to other ants species. A single colony can contain up to one million individual.
Behavior and habitat of the Argentine ant
Argentine ants can be found a variety of places. They can adapt to various types of habitats and can readily install their nests in these places. You can typically found them in the soil, under woods, at the base trees and shrubs, and various debris. They usually form a colony that can contains several queens. The size of the colony is usually very high as compared to others ant species. These ants travel in trail, especially when they found a good source of food. They may be seen moving on buildings or trees in homes. Argentine ants build their nests most often in moist soil or any place with a certain amount of humidity. They may also be found in basements of buildings. These ants can have several nests, which form a web of nests.
Argentine ants are omnivorous but they have specific preference for sweet food or oily food that they may come across in your kitchen. You may also find Argentine ants on trees looking for honeydew.
Argentine Ant Reproduction
An Argentine ant colony can have several queens, all having reproductive function. A queen mate only once with a single male and will continue to produce fertilized eggs during her lifetime. A single queen can produce up to 60 eggs per day, which will lead the rapid growth of the colony. Eggs take about 28 days to hatch into larvae, which take about 74 days to reach the adult stage.
Argentine ant queens are generally mobile and can be seen outside the colony foraging. This is different from what we know from other ant species where the queen resides exclusively in the nest, with worker supplying her with food. Why this behavior or Argentine ant queen is still a matter of debate.
The sole function of males of this ant species is reproduction. They usually live for a very short period of time. They mate only once with a queen and die shortly after.
Signs of Argentine ant infestation
The obvious sign of Argentine ant infestation is their noticeable presence. These ants do not hide and in fact they move in trail in the search of food. If you have them, you would see them travelling along your home or trees that are in your compound.