Tag Archives: agressive ants

Living Rafts Carry Fire Ants to Safety

Huckleberry Finn was an amature raft builder and river rafter, when compared to Red Imported Fire ants.

As fire ants are flooded out of their underground nests, they hold onto each other for dear life, forming a fire ant flotilla that allows them to survive. Actually, they hold themselves together by linking mandibles (mouth parts) to the legs of other ants and locking leg to leg to mouth to leg.

Instead of scattering, with every ant for him or herself, red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) have the unique ability to gather together as a colony and form living rafts on the surface of rising flood waters.

TheCoz [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
TheCoz [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Their rafts are so tightly woven together, that water cannot penetrate the raft. This structure also holds a layer of air, called a plastron layer, tightly around the raft. The plastron layer (air bubble) facilitates buoyancy and keeps ants on the bottom of the raft (those underwater) alive. This unique “air bubble” and a waxy coating on their bodies allows these ants to stay afloat for weeks if necessary, so that they have a fighting chance to reach dry land and save their colony.

To make sure the colony survives, the queens and their eggs (there can be one or more queens in a colony), are given the driest accommodations on the raft, near the center.  The raft itself is in constant motion, with ants moving across the top and joining the stationary layer on the bottom.  In this way the raft is kept in tip top condition.

Scientists don’t really know why some ants get to be the bottom raft crew, but it seems that there is some indication that this is not a voluntary position.

The colony must survive. So while floating down the river on natures currents, these ants are constantly searching for new and safe places to set up housekeeping.

So, what do these ants do when they finally hit dry land?  Abandon ship of course!

USA, TX, Travis Co.: Austin.Tom Hughes Park.12-xi-2016
USA, Travis Co..Tom Hughes -2016

 

All ashore that going ashore! ant-warning-danger-44575_960_720

Ant Facts:

The South American or Red Imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) was initially introduced into Southern California in 1998 (Orange imported-red-fire-antCounty) and is a major concern as an invasive species. It is similar in general appearance to our native southern fire ant (S. xyloni), except the head and thorax of the red imported fire antsouthern-fire-ant-jpeg is a little darker and their dirt excavations for colony sites are much larger, almost the size of gopher mounds!fireant-nest

The sting of both species of fire ant is about the same pain level, and leaves a raised reddish welt, especially in tender areas.  A single bite or sting is not pleasant but watch out for a whole colony may decide to attack at once if a threat to the colony is perceived and this can be a definite health concern as they can inflict significant damage and a whole lot of fiery pain.

With the amount of rain and snow, in California this year, and the extensive number of areas destroyed by fire, flooding is a major problem for we humans and animals alike.  You can be sure, as we deal with disastrous flooding, Fire Ants will be industriously building rafts, and river rafting their way to safety and, like Christopher Colombus,  new lands to colonize.

Here’s a cartoons about fire ants.  Want more? Click Here!

fire-ant-cartoon-with-ant-eaters

Argentine Ants and Chemical Warfare

In their quest for world domination, Argentine ants have successfully conquered 6 continents and many islands.  How did they do this?  Easily, their multi-queen colonies, adaptive abilities (conquering changes in their environment) and their nomadic lifestyles), have made them “hard to kill”.

1st-american-ant-colony

The first Argentine ants disembarked, in New Orleans, from ships carrying coffee from Brazil. Originating along the banks of the South American, Parana River, in a tropical ecosystem, Argentine ants have become a major nuisance in the southwestern United States including California.  They are now thriving in urban areas where non-native landscape and plenty of irrigation fosters beautiful tropical environments.  As an invading species they are a natural and economic threat to native ants by aggressively competing for life sustaining resources and pollinators by protecting plant pests such as aphids and scales that provide them with a food source, honeydew, while the makers of their food source destroy landscape plantings and crops.

By Penarc {http://en.wikipedia.org)
By Penarc {http://en.wikipedia.org)

Being extremely aggressive, these ants out compete native species for food and other resources by employing “Chemical Warfare”.  During battle, Argentine ants produce secretions that serve them in two ways, first they irritate and incapacitate their foe and second, this same secretion attracts other Argentine ants to the war zone where they aggressively join the battle.

Photo: Choe Laboratory, UC Riverside
Photo: Choe Laboratory, UC Riverside

A single colony may contain 10,000 female workers, and there may be hundreds of colonies around your home; the total number of ants could easily reach a million. Although they cannot sting, they can and do bite.

Native ant colonies, for the most part, are extremely territorial and will fight other colonies of the same species. Argentine ants in the United States are all closely related with very similar DNA, since originating from the first colonizers in Louisiana. They seem to accept ants from different colonies as members of their global family. It has even been observed that, Argentine ants from different colonies will “join forces” and attack together in huge swarms. To Argentine ants, victory is simply a numbers game and they don’t care if the enemy is Goliath and they’re David.

In their case, size doesn’t matter. It’s not the size of the ant in the fight it’s the size of the fight in the ant and maybe who has the best weapons.

fighting-ants

If you suspect you have an argentine ant invasion or any ant invasion, here is a link to our ant control experts.

Asian Needle Ants vs Argentine Ants: GAME ON!

As an invasive species, Argentine ants have been extremely successful invaders. These aggressive, territorial ants, which can live in super-colonies comprised of thousands of queens and millions of workers, easilyargentine_ant displaced native species as they spread across the United States. No other ant species has successfully stood up to these super troopers — until now.

 

So, what gives Asian needle ants (Brachyponera chinensis or Pachycondyla chinensis) an edge over the competition? Researchers have come to the conclusion that the Asian needle ant’s ability to tolerate cooler temperatures is a major factor in their success. In cooler months, both species become dormant and their basic activities slow way down. This temporarily stops reproduction, diminishing populations. Asian needle ants wake up and become

active much earlier inthe year than Argentine ants, getting a jumpstart on their competitors. They start to reproduce, forage for food, and build new colonies in Argentine ant territory as early as March, while the Argentine ants take another couple of months to rise and shine and get going. Finding their old territories already occupied, the Argentine ants typically move on to other areas.

In forests, Asian needle ants nest in rotting logs, under leaves and mulch, and under rocks. In human environments, they can nest anywhere from potted plants to under door mats, in landscaping materials, and even under dog bowls.

While they love to eat termites, Asian needle ants will consume just about anything it can get its’ mandibles around, from dead insects to other ants to human garbage.  Its’ aggressiveness, habitat versatility and eating habits could mean a great change to our eco-systems.  When these guys move in they eat other ants, devour their food sources, and take up their nesting spaces, forcing native ant species, such as Wood ants, Acrobat ants and Thief ants, to disappear. This is a problem because, these native species play important roles in the ecosystem. Many native ants are gardeners—they till the soil and plant seeds, and the loss of these ant species will impact the health of our forests, and in the long-run, destroy them.

acrobat-ant-crematogaster-scutellaris
Acrobat Ant

 

Redwood Ant
Redwood Ant

 

 

 

 

Thief Ant
Thief Ant

Not only is this ant of concern to its’ adopted habitats but it is also a health concern as it’s venomous sting causes burning and site redness (with dull nerve pain lasting up to 2 weeks) and in some extreme cases, allergic reactions (anaphylaxis).  Scientists have deduced that more people are allergic to Asian ant stings than to Honeybee stings.

Although not yet arriving in California, in great numbers, they are heading our way.  They have already been stopped 6 times at our boarders and appear to be hitch-hiking on imported food products, landscaping and plant materials and grandma’s potted plant.

What does an Asian ant look like?  It is shiny, black with lighter orange legs, has a stinger and is only about 0.2 inches long. The Argentine ant, in comparison, ranges in color from light to dark brown, doesn’t have a stinger (but they do bite) and are about 0.08 inches in length,  much smaller than the Asian needle ant.

For more info on common ants in California, follow this link: https://www.corkyspest.com/ant-id.html