Argentine Ants: New Invasive Ant Supercolony in Oregon

argentine ants

Argentine ants are the most invasive ant species across the globe. They’re one of the largest ant colonies that span the entire world. Although they originated from Argentina, they can be found all over South America. They made their way into the US through ships transporting coffee. Nowadays they can be found not only in the USA but also in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, South Africa, and even Japan.

Argentine ants are common in Beaverton, Oregon.

Argentine ants are invasive species that thrive in agricultural, urban, and natural habitats. When the weather is extremely dry or wet, they can make their way into homes. Their main source of food is honeydew when they are outdoors. However, they also search for substitutes like fats, sweets, and oils whenever they need to replenish their food supply.

What do Argentine ants look like?

Argentine ants have a light brown to dark brown color. Some can even appear black. Their body comprises an abdomen, antennae, thorax, head, eyes, six legs, and mandibles.

They’re also known as Linepithema humile. Argentine ants have smooth and hairless bodies that look segmented. The worker ants have all the same size and can measure from 2.2mm to 2.8mm long. They don’t have a stinger, but they have mandibles with at least 5 to 8 teeth.

Generally, worker ants don’t have wings. However, reproductive males and Argentine ant queens may have wings, but these are rarely seen since they mate in their nests.

Queen and worker Argentine ants

What are the characteristics of Argentine ants?

Argentine ants aren’t aggressive with each other, and they don’t fight as often as other ant species. However, it can be the opposite if they’re against other insects and ant species. Although their natural habitat is outdoors, they have a tendency to coexist with humans because of the indoor climate, and it gives them more access to food.

What makes them unique from the different ant species is that they can have multiple queens in a colony. A queen, along with a group of workers can also leave their current colony to establish a new one, even if it’s nearby.

The queens can even share their workers in their colonies. Some queens can even start their own even if they only have 10 workers. Moreover, when the Argentine ant queen dies, her colony doesn’t die. Another Argentine ant queen from a nearby colony can take over.

But even with having multiple queens and colonies, Argentine ant nests are usually interconnected. They also mate inside their nest instead of swarming. They develop from egg to larva. It takes 28 days for a larva to emerge from the egg. It can mature into an adult after 74 days after it hatched from the egg.

Lower temperatures can slow down their maturing stages, which is why most eggs are laid during summer. They love moist environments. You can also find their colonies under rocks or logs.

How different are Argentine ants from sugar ants?

Sugar ants (also known as odorous house ants) are the common black ants you see in your pantry or kitchen, or anywhere near where you store your food. They have about 4 times to 5 times more odor receptors than other insects, which is why they always seem to find food easily. They can follow the scent trails through vents, crevices, cracks, or any type of opening in your home.

Their nests can usually be found in any secluded part of your home. They’re usually hiding inside your storage areas, walls, or even basements. However, their source still needs to be traced so that the colony is completely eradicated.

Sugar ant or odorous house ant

How can you tell them apart?

Ants are so tiny that differentiating what species they are can be tricky. Especially with Argentine ants and sugar ants. They both have dark-colored bodies that aim for your food.

The key to differentiating them is by looking closely at the color of their body. For sugar ants, the females tend to have orange-colored bodies while males are black but have wings. They only have 2 castes: the minor workers and the major soldiers. Workers are slender compared to the soldiers.

They usually infest areas in the Pacific Northwest due to the moisture from the high amount of rainfall the region experiences. Even in your home, they prefer areas with high moisture.  You’ll easily find them in kitchen sinks or in your bathroom.

On the other hand, Argentine ants have light brown, dark brown, or black colors. Their nests are harder to track since they can follow food scent trails from long distances. Although they prefer sweets, they will also eat cereals, damaged fruit, and dead or live insects.

If you can’t tell them apart by their color, Argentine ants usually have trails where they usually travel side by side. You’ll see at least 5 ants that each have a companion by their side while they look for food.

If you’re not sure, if the ants are attracted to sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup, or honey, there’s a huge chance that it’s a sugar ant.

Why are there Argentine ants?

Argentine ants are native to Argentina, but they’ve managed to travel to different continents around the world. They were able to do so by stowing away on ships that were carrying coffee or sugar from Argentina to the USA back in the 1890s.

Then, they trek from the southern states until they managed to spread in Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Missouri, Illinois, California, and Texas. This is how they were able to spread their species across all continents except Antarctica.

They prefer to live in temperate and humid areas which is why there are so many Argentine ant infestations in Oregon. And even if there are already native ants in Oregon, they either killed the majority or uprooted them.

What kind of damages can they cause?

Argentine ants tend to drive out other species and insects in their area. This change in the ecosystem can have multiple negative effects.

Argentine ants are invasive species. They tend to drive out other ant species in their area. They can even drive away other insects. This can disrupt the ecosystem and turn it in their favor.

In South Africa, they’ve observed that Argentine ants steal honey and even prey on the bees. They could even damage crops because they eat almost anything produced by animals and plants. They often eat the fruit and buds of plants since those tend to be sweeter for them.

Another example is from California. When the Argentine ants intruded the area of the harvester ants, a native ant in California, the coast horned lizards had no choice but to change their diet. They had to switch to eating arthropods and other insects but a study conducted by Milan J. Mitrovich found that newly hatched Coast Horned lizards failed to thrive and gain the weight they need to survive when they were deprived of harvester ants.

Moreover, these Argentine ants are not very picky when it comes to food. Apart from crops, they can also feed on eggs regardless if they came from native reptiles, birds, or amphibians. They also love honeydew and will be aggressive when parasites or predators threaten the aphids.

Where will you usually find Argentine ants?

As mentioned before, Argentine ant colonies are interconnected and massive. It’s home to millions of worker ants and hundreds of queens. It can cover entire farmlands, neighborhoods, and city blocks. Although they’re more notorious in the Southern states, they can also be found in the Pacific Northwest and even reach the Midwest. You might need to resort to pest control measures when you are in these areas. It’s best to use pest control measures during summer, but depending on your situation, you might need to do it during different months.

Argentine ants like to forage food from your garden and from your home. The good news is that although they can trail to your house, they don’t like living in them. They usually prefer living in damp soil. This can be near plants, buildings, under the buildings, or on the sidewalk. Colonies are always near their water and food sources.

They also like to build colonies in neat shallow nests or even in moist areas. You can look for them under rocks, yard debris, mulch, or even under your potted plants. You can also find them along with home foundations and pavements. Although they prefer living outside, they can move into your home when the conditions outside aren’t favorable for them. You can expect this to happen as soon as temperatures drop or when summer ends because there’s less moisture from the soil.

If you’re not sure how Argentine ants were able to make their way into your home, they usually find their way through utility lines, phone wires, or even tree branches that are in close contact with your window. As soon as they’re inside, they will regroup near the areas where there’s moisture. Expect them to regroup near water pipes, under your sink, or even under or beside your potted plants. They tend to favor areas like the bathroom, the laundry, or the kitchen. In some cases, they can build a nest in floor voids. They can even build a nest in your wall if it’s damp.

Just like other ant species, Argentine ants always look for water, food, and shelter. They’ll follow scent trails that usually lead right to your home. There are a few control measures that you can do to prevent them from invading your home. However, you have to keep in mind that Argentine ants are different from the rest of the ant species. They’re more resilient, and they can easily grow their numbers back because each colony can have multiple queens. You’ll need to be more diligent with the whole ant pest control process and methods in order to prevent them from invading your home.

How to get rid of Argentine ants

Before you reach for an insect repellent spray, you have to understand that you can’t exactly control pests when you use insect repellent sprays. In fact, if you do this to ants, you might end up making the situation a lot worse. The ants you see are just a few of the worker ants who are with their queen living somewhere around your area. In a few hours, you might see another trail of ants foraging food in your home.

ant bait traps

If you want a more effective method, you can use ant bait stations. This is a better way of handling ant pest control on your own. In the long term, the baits are more reliable and will give you better results without having to do much.

All you have to do is set it up near the areas they like to regroup. Once they take the bait, they’ll bring it back to their colonies. Other worker ants will go back to forage from the bait. Make sure to get it replaced so that the more the ants consume, the more they dwindle in number. Eventually, their colony will die out.

This is an effective way of handling ant pest control since it’s safe for you. Additionally, it can help you slowly eradicate Argentine ants from your home.

However, this method can take a while, the effects last longer. However, if you’re dealing with larger colonies you’ll need to be more patient because it will take more time. Moreover, Argentine ants have multiple queens. They can move to a different area and start a colony, even if there are as little as 10 worker ants.

You can also try using an outdoor perimeter spray so that you’ll have an extra protective barrier from Argentine ants. Just spray it near entryways at your home or on the areas they typically regroup in. However, not all formulations are the same. Always check if it is environmentally friendly and organic to ensure you won’t harm your family, pets, or plants.

If you want a faster way to eliminate Argentine ants from your home without risking your family and pets, it’s best to contact an organic ant pest control professional. They’re more experienced with handling this so they can easily find the colonies that are giving you a headache.

organic pest control expert

Why should you choose organic pest control for Argentine ants?

A lot of products marketed to kill Argentine ants aren’t always safe to handle. Although they are easy to implement, there’s still that chance you might end up making things worse. If you have kids or pets at home, this could also be dangerous for them. One of the safest ways you can handle this is by contacting an organic ant pest control expert like Ant & Garden Organic Pest Control in Beaverton, Oregon. 

Here are some of the reasons why the best solution to your Argentine ant problem is an organic pest control program:

  1. Over-the-counter insecticides can cause allergies. This can result in adverse health issues if someone from your home is exposed to these kinds of chemicals.
  2. Most traditional pest control programs use insecticides that are non-selective. This means that it can kill other organisms and insects who are in the area of treatment. On the other hand, organic pest control programs target specific pests only. The others will be safe from the treatment. Organic pest control programs also use environmentally-friendly solutions so that even the nearby plants won’t suffer during the treatment.
  3. Pest control should be safe for the homeowners. Children and pets are more susceptible to risk from chemical insecticides. It can even be harder if anyone from your family has health issues. Organic Pest control is a great alternative that can get the job. It might even do better than the usual approach of chemical insecticides.
  4. Every Argentine ant infestation should be checked thoroughly. There are unique cases from time to time. A cookie-cutter approach won’t always work.

If you’re in Beaverton, Oregon, and looking for an effective yet safe organic ant pest control solution, Ant & Garden Organic Pest Control may be what you’re looking for. They won’t just kill the ants right away. They’ll find the source and thoroughly target the colonies that have been causing the infestation. Rely on experts like Ant & Garden Organic Pest Control to make sure that your problem with Argentine ants is solved long-term.

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