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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

big ant in line among smaller ants?
Sun, Oct 26, 2008 at 10:03 PM
Hi,
Every summer ants find their way into my house, and I’ve noticed for the past couple of years that there’s often a single larger/longer ant among the line of regular smaller ones. Always just one though. Who is this guy & what does he do? Usually the bigger ant is about 2-3 times the size of the others with an extra long abdomen, and moves slower; the one in the pictures from this year has a shorter/more proportional abdomen than others I’ve seen, moved faster, and behaved differently than other “big brother” ants in the past — instead of lumbering along in line with the others back and forth, this year’s walked for a bit then stayed in one spot, where the smaller ants congregated around it every so often.
In the past, the bigger ant hasn’t behaved any differently than the others, except for moving slower.
I couldn’t find any information on the internet about this (maybe because I wasn’t sure what to search for!) so any info would be appreciated. I just want to know why it’s so huge!
thanks!
michele.
los angeles, ca

Argentine Ants

Argentine Ants

Hi Michele,
We have always called these Argentine Sugar Ants, but Charles Hogue calls them simply Argentine Ants in his book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin. We have been meaning to photograph our own home invasions, but never seem to have a camera ready when 100s of ants discover bits of food in the sink or the cat food. We can honestly say that no species of insect annoys us more than the Argentine Ant, Iridomyrmex humilis or Linepithema humile according to BugGuide, and may one day post some of our anecdotes about various funny home invasions in years past. Here is what Hogue writes about this species. “This is our most common ant, the little blackish species (its length is 1/8 in., or 3 mm) that invades our homes and yards in search of food and water. Abundant in urban areas, it develops to prodigious numbers, and single colonies may harbor thousands of workers. It often becomes particularly noxious at the onset of cool weather in the fall, when colonies converge and move to sheltered, warmer quarters under homes, and foraging columns begin to seek food indoors. The Argentine Ant is, as its name suggests, native to South America (Argentina and Brazil), and it is an undesirable alien in our country. It was apparently introduced into New Orleans before 1891 in coffee shipments from Brazil, and it has since spread rapidly over much of the United States. The species is one of the most presistent and troublesome of all our house-infesting ants. Argentine Ant workers seek out and feed on almost every type of food, although they are especially fond of sweets. Making themselves most objectionable, the ants invade the house through minute crevices and cracks — filing along baseboards, across sinks, and over walls and tables in endless trails. they also have another undesirable habit: by protecting and tending scale insects and aphids, worker ants foster these injurious garden pests. Shallow nests are made in the ground, often under rocks or wood; the galleries extend only to depths of 6 to 7 inches (15 to 18 cm) below the surface. there may be a number of queens in a single colony. The Argentine Ant is a highly competitive species and is quick to exterminate other species of ants, including natives, in territory that it has just invaded this ant has no sting; its bite is feeble but can be felt.” Many ants have a caste system with soldier ants. We are uncertain if the Argentine Ant has soldier ants. Perhaps a reader can provide that information. We suspect, as this is the onset of cooler weather, your larger ant may be a queen in search of a new home. We have noticed a similar situation with a single larger ant in our own home invasions. BugGuide supports that with this information: “Winged queens mate once with a winged male, after which they can continuously produce fertile eggs for as long as 10 years- until death. Unlike most ants, several productive queens of this species can share the same colony, with one or more leaving with some of the workers to form a new colony when it gets crowded (this is known as ‘budding’).”

Argentine Ants

Argentine Ants

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Hello bug man I have a contender for the worst bug story ever from Atlanta GA
So, I do work for a pest control company, but in my own heart I am very much a live and let live person and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your site! Certain pest (German cockroaches, brown recluses, things like that) I am against, but I do believe there are many beneficial and beautiful pests in nature and in our homes. Well, when I was about 15 we lived in a small trailor in a trailor park outside of Atlanta GA. I happened to be home by myself one night and my mother had left me some money to order pizza. I ordered the pizza and ate a few slices, then left it sitting on the counter. I was sitting in the dark, watching music videos on MTV when I went to go get another slice. I grabbed one out of the box and took a bite. It tasted weird, it smelt weird and suddenly I realized there were things crawling all over my face and arms and I had no idea what it was. I ran to the sink and immediately started throwing up and trying to rinse off my face and arms, as soon as I switched the light on I saw there were millions of the little sugar ants crawling all over my pizza. They were crawling all over my face and arms and when I say millions, I mean MILLIONS!! Til this day I will accidentally smush an ant and the very familiar smell causes my stomach to dry heave. I threw the pizza in the sink and frantically tried to rinse off my face and arms, when my panic finally subsided I opened the pizza box on the counter and it was infested with ants. In a matter of an house they had completely covered my pizza. Needless to say, I never ate anything that I had left sitting on the counter without thoroughly checking it 1 st again. Thanks!!
Jacklyn D. Warren-Gregg

Hi Jacklyn,
We have our own collection of personal reasons the imported Argentine Sugar Ant is our own most reviled insect. One winter after a significant El Niño storm in the 1980s, Argentine Ants had their nest flooded by all the water and they entered the home of our editorial staff long before we began What’s That Bug?.  They moved into the box spring that was on the floor.  Starving student that we were, we slept on a twin mattress atop the box spring without any bed frame.  We awoke covered in Argentine Ants and spent the rest of the night sleepless.  The next day after the rain subsided, we took the box spring outside and waited until the ants moved out.  Argentine Ant invasions in that particular rental were the worst that we have ever encountered, however we have been troubled by Argentine Ants wherever we have lived or worked in Los Angeles.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Mexican Edible Leafcutting Ant (wingless) in Cuernavaca, Morales, Mexico
Hi! I wrote you guys a few weeks back with these pictures, and i couldn’t figure out what kind of giant ants these were. I’ve now shrunk the pics down a little to make them more email friendly, and I was just re-skimming your site when I came across the Mexican Edible Leaf-Cutter ant. One reader (Diego) mentioned that he’s never been around to see them shed their wings before burrowing and starting a new colony. I was lucky enough to come across hundreds of them and I snapped a few pics… Had I known they tasted like bacon and pistachios I would’ve scooped a few up… Enjoy the pics!

Sorry we were unable to respond to your initial letter, but we are happy you identified your Mexican Leafcutter Ant without our direct assistance.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

What is this bug?
We woke up this morning to find our house completely infested with these, a couple of hundred of them. Their bodies are about one inch long. They have four wings, the longer set being about two inches. They seem to have stingers. They were all sluggish when we woke up and found them. My husband was able to sweep them up without much trouble. Their wings make a very loud buzzing sound. We live on the Pacific coast in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico. Thanks,
Jennifer

Hi Jennifer,
You have experienced the nuptial flight of king and queen edible Leaf Cutter Ants. They usually take flight after a summer rain.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Edible Leaf-Cutter Ants
A little while back I received a package from an amazing person in Texas whom I met indirectly through www.Bugguide.net . This spectacular individual had agreed to try to harvest these winged alates [which emerge within a pretty specific time-window, kind of like cicadas but far less numerous]. Though at first it had seemed that we’d missed the window of opportunity, in the end I got OVER 2 POUNDS of these impressive and beautiful ants. They were shipped overnight to my Rhode Island home and arrived nicely chilled. I’ve tried them; while they’re tasty – unlike cicadas, their wings are largely inedible – I have yet to make them the delectable delicacies I know them to be. These ants are consumed in Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, and probably elsewhere. If anyone can suggest a good recipe (Roasting, baking? What spices, if any?) I’d be grateful for some advice. Thanks,
Dave
www.slshrimp.com

Thanks David,
We can always depend upon you for palette stimulating submissions.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination