What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Is this an ant war? I’ve never seen one before…
Location: Meadowview, VA, USA
August 25, 2014 6:26 am
I took my son to school this a.m. and in the 10 minutes it took me to go and come back, this swarm of wingless ants appeared on the edge of my driveway (it was not there when we left). There are several “puddles” of ants along the edge of the driveway where it meets the lawn, with trails of ants moving between them like little rivers. Up close there appears to be one on one fighting, with the big puddles being the “winners?” swarming around on top of immobile “losers?”… on the edges of the “puddles” there are individual ants wandering around, but other than size (a few are much smaller than the others, but all of them are fairly small ants) they appear really similar to me– I can’t see an obvious two species fighting. Is this maybe that situation caused by wasp secretions, where they fight themselves? Or is it two or more colonies duking it out? I’ve sent several pictures from my phone– I hope at leas t one of them is good enough quality for you to identify world war 3 for me!! Thanks for your awesome site– I love to visit and learn new stuff!
Signature: Jeri Ward
I wasn’t sure which pix would be clearest, so I’m sending the rest in hopes at least one will be good enough to id.

Ant Swarm

Ant Swarm

Hi Jeri,
We are posting the clearest of the eight images you submitted.  Alas, we are not very good at Ant identification and we believe even an ant expert might have problems with an exact identification, but we have some thoughts.  Since these are small ants, two species that come to mind are both nonnative, invasive species, the Argentine Ant (which is reported on BugGuide from nearby North Carolina and Tennessee) and the Red Imported Fire Ants, which according to BugGuide:  “The Red Imported Fire Ant is the most aggressive and widespread of the fire ants found in North America. It was introduced from South America into the United States between 1933 and 1945. If their nest is stepped on, the workers rush out and sting the feet and legs of the intruder. Each sting results in a small, acutely painful wound that develops into a pustule in 24 to 48 hours. As the pustules heal they become itchy and can become infected. ”  Of the Argentine Ant, BugGuide states:  “Thought to have first arrived in the United States in coffee shipments in New Orleans around 1891.  A major pest in United States for several reasons: able to nest in diverse habitats, produces great numbers of individuals due to many reproductive queens in a colony, eats large variety of food (omnivorous diet), coexists amiably with other colonies of same species, exterminates competing native species of ants wherever they occur, and invades homes in large numbers in search of food and water.  When established in an area, the number of individuals is mind boggling, with large files of workers running up and down trees, on fences, on the ground, and everywhere else; considered one of the most persistant and troublesome of house-infesting ants.”  We believe this is either linked to swarming activity and the emergence of winged alates, or perhaps something else caused a colony to come above ground, like perhaps flooding.  Did you water the lawn earlier?  We apologize for not being much help.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Meadowview, Virginia

One Response to Swarming Ant Mystery

  1. Jeri says:

    Thanks so much for your response! I’m glad I didn’t poke them with a finger LOL Within an hour all the moving ants were gone, and about 10 dozen dead ants were left behind– they appear to be the smaller of the two “types” if they were different ants. Both sets appeared to be the same dark coffee brown all over, neither appeared to have red or black on them, and I thought fire ants had red coloration on at least part of their bodies? Either way, better safe than sorry! It has rained every day for several weeks, so no, I did not water the lawn, and there were no wings on any individuals nor were any wings left behind after the “swarm” disappeared, so I think it was really some sort of conflict and not a mating activity. Love your site, thanks again!

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