All ant species exhibit different behavioral patterns depending on their nature; like the argentine ants are famous for their large-sized colonies.
Can Argentine Ants Form Supercolonies? Argentine ants can form supercolonies as they prefer to form bigger colonies that are expanding on almost 3000 to 3700 miles. Moreover, they show extreme social organization in their behavior and build multiple nests but remain connected to the natal nest. Furthermore, they form a supercolony to achieve interspecific dominance, and their dietary flexibility and longer lifespan allow them to survive in different habitats.
The fire ant and black carpenter ant colonies comprise around 30,000 to 50,000 members, while the Argentine ants are known to build the largest colony ever on this planet.
However, the sugar ants are known to have the shortest colonies, with around 10 to 30 workers, but they can exceed a few thousand members when the environmental conditions are favorable.
How big is the Argentine ant supercolony?
Argentine ants are known to form supercolonies and expand on a large surface area compared to other ant species based only on a few hundred members.
It can be astonishing to know that they can extend from 3000 to 3700 miles. Furthermore, this supercolony does not contain only a single nest, as many nests are connected to each other.
Moreover, these consist of almost billions of workers and nearly a million queens to control the population rate and avoid a decline.
The estimated ratio of workers and queens in a colony is 9:1, which helps ensure its survival as both are essential for maintaining the nest and colony survival.
These form underground passages for safe movements and interconnect all the nests as the workers keep on moving between nests.
Furthermore, the Argentine ants are found to be the only species that can extend to a larger area and were introduced into Europe almost 80 years ago.
It was recorded to be the only ant species that can form the largest colony and was added to the Guinness Book of World Records in 2002.
Why do Argentinian ants form supercolonies?
Argentine ants can form supercolonies for many reasons like their natural behavior allows them to develop interconnected nests resulting in the formation of a single large colony.
The Argentine ants have a longer lifespan as workers can live for 8 to 12 months, which is considered a longer lifespan compared to other species that can only survive from a few weeks to months.
Their queens can survive for almost 8 to 10 years, which means they can produce a large number of eggs during this duration.
Accordingly, a longer lifespan allows them to build larger colonies that can spread to a large surface area when the new workers continuously replace the dead ones.
They have behavioral instincts to form a larger nest by moving outward while remaining connected to the original nest with queens.
Their colonies are polydomous, meaning they have multiple nests that are densely occupied and joined with the original one that seems like a single large nest.
In addition, their queens do not move to new locations as they do not have to manage the expansion of colonies; that’s why workers have to visit their old nests to feed the queens.
Sometimes, they take a queen to a new location when she is expected to produce new eggs and increase the number of worker ants.
Furthermore, they want to achieve interspecific dominance in the territory by occupying a large surface area as it is one of their strategies to invade the area and kill other species.
Their dietary flexibility allows them to live in any habitat and consume any food type for their survival, allowing them to live longer than others that need a specific diet.
So, you can observe extreme social organization among these species of ants that live in the form of groups like others, but they form the largest colonies.
How do Argentine ants build a supercolony?
Argentine ants show slightly different behavior from other ant species in buildings new nests.
Most commonly, the queens engage in nuptial flight with males, get back to the ground at a new spot, and give rise to a new colony.
In contrast, the queens of argentine ants do not land on a different spot after mating and remain stuck to the natal nest.
Its expansion depends on workers instead of queens in this particular type of species, as the queen makes some workers go out when their nests are filled with eggs and larvae.
These workers begin to live close to the nest and form a new nest that remains connected with the older one. They keep moving back and forth to feed the members and queens.
This way, the workers spread in regions closer to the original nest and stretch it outward on a large area.
The expansion process is fast as they begin to stretch out at an incredible speed and move almost 25 to 30 meters in a particular direction in one year.
Their nests are packed with each other, which look like a single colony. It continues to grow until there is an obstruction due to physical or environmental factors.
So, the workers control the expansion of colonies and the formation of new nests instead of queens and continuously move to a new location closest to the natal nest.
Where are Argentine ant supercolonies present?
The Argentine ants are widely present in Europe for almost 80 years ago. They are usually spread by budding, which seems like opening a new franchise instead of a new business.
In addition, the workers guide the queens to a new location where it is expected to lay eggs.
The new colony is considered a new bud of the existing one, meaning queens do not have to make enough effort to build a new nest from scratch.
Moreover, the Linepithema humile is found commonly in southeastern Australia. It is successfully spread to New Zealand and Hawaii.
Furthermore, these supercolonies are also found in Japan, Brazil, and the USA, which came into this region through cargo ships around a hundred years ago.
They live close to a food source, particularly in a wet environment. In addition, they have occupied a lot of habitats in Arizona, Oregon, California, Texas, Illinois, and Washington.