|Living with the super ant colony|
California is home to a “super colony” of Argentine ants. Argentine ants living in vast numbers across Europe, the US and Japan belong to the same inter-related colony, and will refuse to fight one another.
The colony may be the largest of its type ever known for any insect species, and could rival humans in the scale of its world domination.
Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) were once native to South America. But people have unintentionally introduced the ants to all continents except Antarctica.
These introduced Argentine ants are renowned for forming large colonies, and for becoming a significant pest, attacking native animals and crops.
In Europe, one vast colony of Argentine ants is thought to stretch for 6,000km (3,700 miles) along the Mediterranean coast, while another in the US, known as the "Californian large", extends over 900km (560 miles) along the coast of California. A third huge colony exists on the west coast of Japan.
This means that local colonies are all the same species and do not fight with each other – they all cooperate in battling us! Every summer we have the mass attack on the house of ants in search of water
When it gets very dry you will see the armies of ants mobilizing by the hundreds to get in the house. We have the perimeter of the house sprayed each month but they are a formidable foe when they want to get inside. They have their “scouts” everywhere looking for a path in. All it takes is a stick leaning against the house or a water hose that bypasses the insecticide barrier around the house. In one day, they will get get in and live with them until they seem to retreat (or all die) in about two weeks.
Here are my ground rules when battling the ants: serious insecticides are applied in a perimeter around the house. No serious poisons inside the house. The ground rules are that if you want to erase the trail that they follow into the house, that’s easy – lots of stuff will do that – I use simple vinegar. Killing them is another story. I have been using “Orange Oil” and that does the trick – they seem to suffocate but the stuff has a terrible smell. In desperation, I tried something new – I used “spray on” cooking oil and that did it! It was convenient that they were travelling on the wooden door frame which needed a little oiling. The crisis seems to have passed for this year, but I know next year they will be back
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