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The Never-Ending Battle

imageimage Just as Superman sometimes refers to his battle for justice as “the Never-Ending Battle,” I refer to my annual battle with the hordes of ants who seem to use my house as a summer vacation spot as my own personal never ending battle.

My enemy: ants. Hordes of them. They infest my backyard, my home, and any other source of food they stumble upon. They number in the thousands, and their hive mind makes them as formidable as a well-programmed computer adversary. Physically obstruct one entry point? They will find another. Use poison? They will learn to take paths which are more difficult to attack.

No matter how clean we try to keep the house, they seem to be drawn to anything that even remotely smells or tastes like food. Shampoo. Soap. Toothpaste. Wet/damp areas. They are so voracious that spiders that thought they could “profit” by positioning their webs near ant trails have disappeared within 1-2 days of appearing as the ants destroy even them.

And in case you think my problem is amusing, laugh while you can, for this problem is one for all people, as it seems that a number of Argentine ant colonies around the world all happen to be part of one massive super-colony who’s size “is paralleled only be human society” (via BBC)

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.

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.

Whenever ants from the main European and Californian super-colonies and those from the largest colony in Japan came into contact, they acted as if they were old friends.

These ants rubbed antennae with one another and never became aggressive or tried to avoid one another.

In short, they acted as if they all belonged to the same colony, despite living on different continents separated by vast oceans.

And according to Wikipedia:

The ants are ranked among the world’s 100 worst animal invaders. In its introduced range, the Argentine ant often displaces most or all native ants. This can, in turn, imperil other species in the ecosystem, such as native plants that depend on native ants for seed dispersal, or lizards that depend on native ants for food. For example, the recent severe decline in coastal horned lizards in southern California is closely tied to Argentine ants displacing native ant species on which the lizards feed.

Argentine ants also cause problems in agricultural areas by protecting plant pests, such as aphids and scale insects, from predators and parasitoids. In return for this protection, the ants receive a sweet excretion, known as “honeydew”. Thus, when Argentine ants invade an agricultural area, the population densities of these plant parasites increase, and so too does the damage they cause to crops.

Do you think you can kill them easily? Don’t bet on it:

Argentine ant colonies almost invariably have many reproductive queens, as many as eight for every 1,000 workers, so eliminating a single queen does not stop the colony’s ability to breed. When they invade a kitchen, it is not uncommon to see two or three queens foraging along with the workers.

Well, on the bright side, at least I know I’m not the only one who has to deal with this…

(Image credit – Superman)(Image credit – ants)

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