The Argentine Ant Is Taking Over The World

March 11, 2022 | Jamie Hayes

The Argentine Ant Is Taking Over The World

Allow me to introduce to you the Argentine ant. It probably doesn't look like much to you at first. First of all, they're tiny: The workers grow 2.8 mm long at most, and even the queens are less than a centimeter. These guys aren't particularly great nest builders, either. They can't dig very well, so their nests usually just sit on the ground. But what if I told you that the Argentine ant is...taking over the entire world.

There's more to this unremarkable little insect than meets the eye.

Argentine Ant EditorialShutterstock

Yass Queen

Here's a fun word for you: Polygynous. That one word is the reason that the Argentine ant is taking over the world. You see, most ants are monogynous. That means they have one queen who lays all the eggs for an entire colony. But if mono means one, then rail means...whoops, I mean, then poly means "multiple." Argentine ant colonies have multiple egg-laying queens. Turns out, that's a very helpful trait.

Multiple queens laying eggs means that Argentine ant colonies can grow extremely quickly. Eventually, nests will get so big that queens will wander off and found new nests. But with Argentine ants, individuals in these new nests will still have the exact same chemical profile as the queen's original nest. That means, as far as the Argentine ants are concerned, those new nests are all just a part of the same big colony. Workers or queens can move freely between them.

That means colonies can get big. Really big.


Argentine ants are native to the Paraná River drainage basin in South America. But, like lots of animals, they have spent the last few centuries hitching rides on our ships and seeing the sights. But there are your run-of-the-mill invasive species...and then there's the Argentine ant.

Today, you can find Argentine ants in at least 15 different countries on six continents. They're on a ton of oceanic islands as well. But whenever Argentine ants get to a new place, they don't just carve out a little niche for themselves. They start a colony, then queens branch off and make their own, and so and so forth until...

Argentine Ant EditorialShutterstock Iguazu Falls, on the border of Argentina and Brazil

Super Mega

One of the most documented Argentine ant colonies, the "Very Large Colony," stretches from San Diego to San Francisco. It likely contains nearly one trillion ants. Trillion. It covers hundreds of miles, and yet ants from the farthest corners of its territory will still cooperate when brought together.

But wait, it still gets crazier. Researchers from the University of Tokyo took Argentine ants from all over the globe and found something shocking.

Ants from super-colonies in California, Japan, and the Mediterranean ALL shared the same genetic makeup. They weren't just from three super-colonies—they were all part of a global mega-colony. That officially made it the largest cooperative apparatus in the entire animal kingdom.

And if you're like me, you might have thought, "But come on, just because they have the same genetics, that doesn't mean they're the same colony! They live on opposite sides of the planet!" But when the research team brought individuals from these different super-colonies together, they immediately started working together like they were lifelong pals.

The mega-colony is real, and it's huge.

It's Starship Troopers All Over Again

But the mega-colony doesn't make up all Argentine ants. There are still plenty of distinct colonies, and some of them have started to overlap—and they definitely don't get along. Turns out, there are massive wars going on, all across the world, right under our feet.

As researchers have begun studying this invasive species more closely, they've discovered conflicts between super-colonies that stretch for miles and miles.

The largest ant war yet documented is between the Very Large Colony and the neighboring Lake Hodges Colony. Researchers estimate that thirty million ants give their lives to the fight every single year. Nests will gather strike parties to attack the other colony in raids that last for several hours at a time.

And the worst part about this war? It never ends. Once two supercolonies bump into each other, they just keep on sending wave after wave of soldiers endlessly. Some researchers have observed ant battles continuing on top of the bodies of hundreds of felled soldiers. It's a bloodbath. (Ok, ants don't technically have blood, but you understand the imagery).

Argentine Ant EditorialShutterstock

They Go Wild On Vacation

But want to know the weirdest thing about Argentine ants? In their native range, they aren't the world-conquering leviathan that has taken over most of the globe. They form normal colonies, and different groups will be genetically diverse. They're pretty much like any other similar ant.

It's only once Argentine ants arrived in places where they lacked competition that they turned into a monster. Once they left their home, they became one of the most dangerous invasive species on Earth. They just keep spreading, and they're not showing much sign of slowing down.

Us humans have held the top spot for a while now, but is the Argentine ant coming for us? Only time will tell.

Sources: 1, 2

More from Factinate

Featured Article

My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.

Dark Family Secrets

Dark Family Secrets Exposed

Nothing stays hidden forever—and these dark family secrets are proof that when the truth comes out, it can range from devastating to utterly chilling.
April 8, 2020 Samantha Henman

Featured Article

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.

Madame de Pompadour Facts

Entrancing Facts About Madame de Pompadour, France's Most Powerful Mistress

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
December 7, 2018 Kyle Climans

More from Factinate

Featured Article

I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.

These People Got Genius Revenges

When someone really pushes our buttons, we'd like to think that we'd hold our head high and turn the other cheek, but revenge is so, so sweet.
April 22, 2020 Scott Mazza

Featured Article

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.

Catherine of Aragon Facts

Tragic Facts About Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s First Wife

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but very few people know her even darker history.
June 7, 2018 Christine Tran

Dear reader,

Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to Thanks for your time!

Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at Thanks for your help!

Warmest regards,

The Factinate team

Want to learn something new every day?

Join thousands of others and start your morning with our Fact Of The Day newsletter.

Thank you!

Error, please try again.