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The Argentine Ant Invasion

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 01:30 PM

Our short Argentine Invasion traces the relentless and bloody march of a band of ant warriors whose empire now wraps around the planet (they've been found on every continent except Antarctica).

Adam Cole charts their impressive path to global ant dominance in this stylish graphic (click the image to zoom):

The Argentine Ant Invasion


Adam Cole


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Comments [17]

Jorge from Buenos Aires, Argentina

There are no rivers Pirana and Paraya. I think the map must be talking about rivers Paran√° and Paraguay.

Dec. 02 2014 08:50 AM
MsAxthelm from Grand Junction, CO

Here is a link to a few pictures of an ant battle on my patio. I saw the huge pile and thought of this podcast. Then I looked closer, and, indeed, all the ants were locked into battle with each other. After a few hours, it was all gone. They had cleaned up all the dead. Amazing.

May. 18 2013 10:26 PM
Luis from Brooklyn

Ant Battle.

Feb. 24 2013 01:58 PM
Anna Sher from Denver

Such a great (and well edited) show; I'm a huge fan of the podcast. Re this story- you think this is cool, you should hear about the story of the invasive tamarisk tree (Tamarix spp) and all the controversy (and paradoxical science) around it. Do species invasions mean there are 'bad' species out there? What does invasive actually mean? Here is a tree that is as close to a monster as one could imagine- sucks up lots of water, salinizes the soil, causes devastating fires, excludes native plants and animals... so why are there increasing numbers of people crying foul over the tiny beetle that has been introduced to eat it up? Oxford University Press is publishing a book all about it (with 42 contributing scientists, 1 philosophy professor, and one land manager) this fall. Thanks for the piece about the invasive ant and what it is doing to native ants.

Sep. 20 2012 12:06 AM
michaelbraganza from Ireland

Hello Friends, Such a nice information & Blog Also.

Sep. 14 2012 06:16 AM
laurent from new york

bernard werber wrote this great book "les fourmis" translated as "empire of the ants", trilogy in french , and it is about war, gruesome war in ant world, from the ants' point of view. if you haven't read it, you should look it up.
great show as always.

Aug. 20 2012 07:29 PM
Jake McKenzie from Pensacola Florida

This entire podcast read like Germania by Tacitus.

Aug. 19 2012 01:04 AM
Bob Justice from maryland

To Stephen in Texas: I have had good luck with controlling these ants using the borax and sugarwater bait method (sold commercially as Terro). It takes a week or two, since it's a delayed poison, killing the entire colony eventually. I used so much defending my house and vehicles that I started mixing it up myself from the ingredients. I don't like poisoning the earth. But this seems like a reasonably low-harm way to control them, and kills little else but ants with a taste for sugar. Baits for "grease" ants don't work on these, think.

Aug. 15 2012 08:18 PM
Bob Justice from Maryland

A few years back, I became plagued by ant nests that would appear ANYWHERE that they could stay out of the rain, including vehicles, lawnmower seats and battery compartments, kayak seat backs, and under any piece of plastic sheeting left out or over wood (rural area). They were very energetic ants. I saw information on BBC's news site re the supercolonies, researched, and came to the conclusion that they were Argentine ants. You didn't mention a supercolony on the east coast, but I got the impression that there is one that extends up into Maryland, where I live. This is partly from a map on the knowledgeable site "" and elsewhere. These ants seem to be the only ant type around the area anymore, and are in great numbers, and large colonies. Besides the aggressive behavior, I had also seen a note somewhere that as few as 7-10 worker ants can form a new colony, if isolated from their queens. One of the workers is elevated to queenhood, and begins producing offspring. I assume I am responsible for some spread (as are almost anyone in an infested area) because I have discovered small nests in my kayak after arriving for a camp/kayak trip, and in my car if I let it sit for a week. I guess they are destined to continue spreading, temperature permitting. The evolutionary symbiosis of man and ant.

Aug. 15 2012 08:03 PM

Yes, a facinating story - but what I want is an solution! I live in a suberb north of Houston, Texas and I am being overtaken by this invasion. It is a daily fight for me. It doesn't matter what poisons I use because in a day or two their relatives are back walking over the dead. We need a bait that they will take. The only good news - no more fire ants!

Aug. 14 2012 09:35 AM
Joslyn Rose Trivett

Worker and soldier ants are *female*. Not guys. I wish that Radiolab could be a haven from miss-gendered language, and it confuses me that it's not.

Aug. 05 2012 02:58 PM
Carol Nies from Downing, WI

Are the ants all male? I wonder, because they are called "guys" throughout.

Aug. 03 2012 01:57 PM
mark from bay village, ohio

every continent except ANTarctica...haha

Aug. 02 2012 12:10 PM

I live in San Francisco and I'm from North of there, I'm curious where the border town is. Where is 2211 Eucalyptus?

Aug. 02 2012 12:05 PM
Bbond from Temecula, ca

I'm not an ant bully but I'm curious enough to drive a few minutes out of my way, one day, on the way to work to find 2211 Eucalyptus. Thanks for the great radio.... err, podcasts.

Aug. 01 2012 11:39 PM
cristina marras from Italian in Melbourne

There is a great Italo Calvino's short story called The Argentine Ant. Very post, very Calvino.

Here what Gore Vidal says about it: "If The Argentine Ant is not a masterpiece of twentieth-century prose writing, I cannot think of anything better. Certainly it is as minatory and strange as anything by Kafka. It is also hideously funny. In some forty pages Calvino gives us 'the human condition,' as the blurb writers would say, in spades. That is, the human condition today. Or the dilemma of modern man. Or the disrupted environment. Or nature's revenge. Or allegory of grace. Whatever . . . But a story is, finally, what it tells and no more."

Jul. 31 2012 11:23 PM

The story was great. Very compelling. The thought of that great battle field between the two great ant empires was very interesting, and I desperately wanted to SEE it. Is there a place where I could see footage of that?

Jul. 31 2012 03:42 PM

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