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Picture of the Day

For global invasion, Argentine ants use chemical weapons

From their native home on the banks of South America's Paraná River, Argentine ants have conquered six continents and many oceanic islands. Their success is explained by several factors: they have more than one queen per colony, making them difficult to eradicate, and they adapt to changes in their environments by living transiently rather than building permanent nests. Argentine ants are also highly aggressive, out-competing existing ant species for food and other resources. Although they originated in a tropical ecosystem, Argentine ants are a major nuisance in California and the southern U.S., where they thrive in urban areas with artificial irrigation. They also pose natural and economic threats, competing with native ants and pollinators, and protecting plant pests such as aphids and scales in return for the sweet honeydew secretions that these insects produce. Now, researchers have shown how Argentine ants use chemical secretions as weapons in their interactions with harvester ants, which are native to California. The findings could help in the development of new pest control strategies.

Visit Website | Image credit: Choe Laboratory/UC Riverside