How Big Can an Ant Colony Get?

The largest super-colony of ants in the world was discovered in 2000 in southern Europe, stretching from the Mediterranean coast of Italy to the Atlantic coast of Spain. Spread over about 3,700 miles (6,000 km), this massing of Argentine ants – actually a conglomeration of two super-colonies that tolerate each other – consists of millions of queens and billions of worker ants.

In the United States, a gigantic super-colony called California Large extends some 560 miles (900 km) along the coast of California. Large super-colonies also exist on the west coast of Japan and in Melbourne, Australia. Each of these super-colonies was originally thought to be unique, until University of Tokyo scientists found that all of these Argentine ants have a similar hydrocarbon profile.

The enemy below, or just underground neighbors?

  • Scientists now believe that the Argentine ants in the super-colonies are actually all working together, forming one worldwide mega-colony.
  • The Argentine ant species, called Linepithema humile, probably arrived in Europe via imported plants.
  • Argentine ants are considered to be some of the world's worst animal invaders, upsetting the eco-balance of areas they take over. In southern California, for example, they've been linked to a severe decline of coastal horned lizards.
More Info: BBC

Discussion Comments


Wow! It's too bad that the kids in school can't be taught things like this. I love the books that come out with questions that make you think. Thank you wise geek for allowing me to be a part of your college!


Introduce anteaters.

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