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July 6, 2009 4:04 PM   Subscribe

Introducing Our New Ant Overlords. Argentine Ants (Linepithema humile) have spread to every continent aside from Antarctica, forming Supercolonies such as stretching 3,700 miles (6,000km) of the Mediterranean. Once thought to be independent of one another, scientists now have cause to believe that the disparate Supercolonies in fact make up one global Mega-Colony. They are highly invasive, attack native animals, thrive in fast-growing, high-density colonies, and have an increased capability for cooperation. "The enormous extent of this population is paralleled only by human society," the researchers claim...
posted by Navelgazer (61 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Needs either the iforonewelcome or the iforonewelcomeournewoverlords tag. :D
posted by Decimask at 4:06 PM on July 6, 2009


They look like very friendly conquerors. More power to 'em!
posted by blucevalo at 4:12 PM on July 6, 2009


These guys can disperse by rafts. Oh, how I love them.
posted by pemberkins at 4:14 PM on July 6, 2009


As long as they're not those teeny tiny lighting-fast ones that took over Houston last year.

A friend of mine calls them "crack ants" because they move so fast and apparently randomly.
posted by rokusan at 4:14 PM on July 6, 2009


These are apparently beyond crack ants. More like meth ants.
posted by blucevalo at 4:15 PM on July 6, 2009


I believe the correct term for the crack ants is Crazy Raspberry Ants.
posted by Lord_Pall at 4:15 PM on July 6, 2009


"one vast colony of Argentine ants... in the US, known as the "Californian large", extends over 900km (560 miles) along the coast of California."

Well, they have good taste. I've extended along the cost of California myself, but not that far. Still, they seem to be vulnerable to Unscented Raid Spray (if it is they who invade my apartment) and since I personally am not a "native animal" (born in Cleveland, Ohio), I'm probably relatively safe. If they're capable of challenging the common cockroach for superiority, I'm rooting for them.
posted by wendell at 4:16 PM on July 6, 2009


I'm curious about the evolutionary advantages of having either competitive or co-operative colonies.

Let's say you have mostly identical eco-systems -- let's say two different islands off the coast of Brazil. Both of them have them have all the same species -- the only difference is that on one island, the ant-hills are filled with colonies that compete with each other and will attack if they come into contact with each other, and on the other island -- all the ant hills are filled with the same colony that cooperate.

Will one island end up with a higher population of ants and why?

Also, what happens when the super colony comes into contact with a variant of the same species that does attack them? Does one usually come out on top?

I think this supercolony must have some kind of genetic variation that makes them out compete other varieties of this ant, aside from the cooperation aspect.
posted by empath at 4:17 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


They've come here our freedom. Our horrible, horrible freedom!
posted by entropicamericana at 4:18 PM on July 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


Empath - one of the ideas on why invasive populations of Argentine ants are so successful is that they have reduced genetic variation as a metapopulation - so that even individuals from distant colonies recognize each other as "neighbors" or "friends", and don't attack. (As opposed to native, territorial colonies, which don't recognize each other as "friends", and do attack each other.)
posted by pemberkins at 4:23 PM on July 6, 2009


What if the ant overlords join forces with the terrorists? Has anyone considered this terrifying scenario?
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:24 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


posted by Effigy2000 at 4:24 PM on July 6 [+] [!]: What if the ant overlords join forces with the terrorists? Has anyone considered this terrifying scenario?
Ender has.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:27 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, unless these ants are genetic clones of each other, wouldn't that encourage freeloading? Altruism only works genetically with close relatives. If ants from two different colonies aren't closely related, then wouldn't genetics tend to produce ants that invade the other colony, steal food and not contribute. It would be all upside and no downside.
posted by empath at 4:27 PM on July 6, 2009


What if the ant overlords join forces with the terrorists? Has anyone considered this terrifying scenario?

Yes, Glenn Beck has.
posted by blucevalo at 4:28 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those ants aren't getting into America! No way, no sir! *readies flamethrower boats*
posted by America at 4:30 PM on July 6, 2009


IT CAME FROM RED ALERT
posted by Rumple at 4:37 PM on July 6, 2009


You know who else likes Argentine Ants?

South Carolinan Ants. Except they like to call them "Appalachian Ants".
posted by qvantamon at 4:39 PM on July 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Is there something crawling on me?
posted by disclaimer at 4:40 PM on July 6, 2009


This is just the beginnings of public awareness of the next Bubble economy. Soon, it'll be ant-this, ant-that, and then, when the ecosystem collapses, we'll all go back to lumps of meat, ever-smaller MP3 players, and worrying about which celebrity will pop off next.

For the moment, though, who wants to buy some ant futures?
posted by nonspecialist at 4:41 PM on July 6, 2009


The documentary on this ant takeover has already been made, apparently narrated by Joan Collins.


Leiningen flogged his brain till it reeled. Was there nothing on earth could sweep this devil's spawn back into the hell from which it came?

posted by Rumple at 4:43 PM on July 6, 2009


This is crazy - a food post with no recipes - bah.
posted by bigmusic at 4:52 PM on July 6, 2009


Oh, dear. "The Next Tenants" is looking less like science fiction.
posted by John of Michigan at 4:56 PM on July 6, 2009


Is it okay for a brother ant to do it with his sister ant, or would that be insectuous?
posted by jamstigator at 5:02 PM on July 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Did the governor of South Carolina bring them back with him?
His wife noted that he seemed to have ants in his pants.
posted by Postroad at 5:04 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Could this be the coming of the antychrist?
posted by Rumple at 5:05 PM on July 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


Could this be the coming of the antychrist?

If it is, it seems somewhat ant-y climactic.
posted by empath at 5:07 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I need a bugmenot password...
posted by Rumple at 5:11 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, they'll all wind up marrying their cousins and getting feeble minded.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:11 PM on July 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yet another MetaFilter insect-related thread I will not be bringing to my wife's attention.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:11 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah, they'll all wind up marrying their cousins and getting feeble minded.

Their cousins are also their ants, and so are their uncles. Very inbred. Maybe they could be conquered with moonshine and free cable tv?
posted by Rumple at 5:14 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Saul Bass, of Hitchcock-Openening-Sequence fame directed Phase IV, an evidently prophetic look into the ant domination of Earth.
posted by chambers at 5:48 PM on July 6, 2009


Yet another MetaFilter insect-related thread I will not be bringing to my wife's attention.

The insect-related ones are the ONLY threads I bring to my wife's attention. Because I am a fifth grader in a man's body.
posted by DU at 5:48 PM on July 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Nuke the site from orbit. Its the only way to be sure.
posted by Severian at 6:06 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]



Reads post. Considers investing in anteater ranch.
posted by notreally at 6:13 PM on July 6, 2009


empath, IIRC, biologist and ant-fancier EO Wilson addresses a similar hypothetical situation in one of his books.
posted by elizardbits at 6:24 PM on July 6, 2009


Their cousins are also their ants, and so are their uncles. Very inbred.

So they are guilty of... as we are overrun by... insecst
posted by hal9k at 6:28 PM on July 6, 2009



Hmmm. Turns out this Clifford Simak novel from the sixties was prophetic.

Buy the paperback version and save your money to buy Mirex.
posted by sneebler at 6:29 PM on July 6, 2009


"Six Legs Good, Two Legs Bad!" -- Antimal Farm
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:30 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nuke the site(s) from orbit....it's the only way to be sure.
posted by codswallop at 6:46 PM on July 6, 2009


Notreally has figured it out.

Must procure breeding pair of anteaters.

Must get stimulus money for this project from President Ponies for All.

Ambient2's All-natural Ant Control, coming soon to... everywhere.

Purt near the whole world is my market.

I've seen anteaters at a zoo; they're really cool, interesting creatures.
posted by ambient2 at 6:46 PM on July 6, 2009


These guys aren't really that annoying. Yes, they fly, but they don't buzz in your ear like mosquitos or gnats. They mainly just land on a piece of paper you happen to be working on, or the table. They fall from the ceiling. They're super easy to kill too. They are so slow you can swat them with your hand. Overall, not that annoying, as far as insects inside your house go.
posted by metastability at 7:21 PM on July 6, 2009


President Ponies for All.

Do you know how I know you could be outreasoned by a colony of ants?
posted by John of Michigan at 7:22 PM on July 6, 2009


Overall, not that annoying, as far as insects inside your house go

They're like Google text ants.
posted by flabdablet at 7:52 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Meet your Overlord.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:59 PM on July 6, 2009


If they can out-compete and displace the @*$(%(# fire-ants here in Texas, then I for one DO say "Bienvenido, hormiga maestros".
posted by John Smallberries at 9:03 PM on July 6, 2009


Once thought to be independent of one another, scientists now have cause to believe that the disparate Supercolonies in fact make up one global Mega-Colony.

guh guh guh guh bugs everywhere no no aaaaagh
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:19 PM on July 6, 2009


I think Philip K Dick got this one....*looks around for nearest spider*
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:07 PM on July 6, 2009


Thanks, ants.
posted by boo_radley at 11:11 PM on July 6, 2009


At this point the ants may be the only thing that can stop the global hominid infestation.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:27 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


These ants also starred in Italo Calvino's best short story, 'The Argentine Ant', available in English translation in this book.
posted by Mocata at 2:39 AM on July 7, 2009


The only thing worse than the myrmecoid hegemony is the unstoppable spread of horrible ant-related puns.
posted by clockzero at 3:07 AM on July 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ant mega-colony takes over world

Well, that's a tad overdramatic. As long as I can still step on them, I'm not worried.
posted by amro at 7:31 AM on July 7, 2009


Thanks, ants.
posted by boo_radley


You're welcome.
posted by workerant at 7:36 AM on July 7, 2009


Thanks, ants.

Thants.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 7:45 AM on July 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wasn't there a post on the blue about how The Onion is eerily prescient a while ago?
Because....this is less than a month old and makes me wonder....
posted by MessageInABottle at 8:12 AM on July 7, 2009


They then matched up the ants in a series of one-on-one tests to see how aggressive individuals from different colonies would be to one another.

....whenever ants from the main European and Californian super-colonies and those from the largest colony in Japan came into contact, they acted as if they were old friends.
Argentine ant thunderdome: two ants enter, two ants leave.

These ants are a pest because once a colony finds food in your house, no amount of sealing will keep them out. They are the most determined explorers and will find the smallest opening no matter how circuitous the route from that opening to the food.

Waking up with a pantry full of ants walking off with your breakfast cereal (after caullking along the baseboards, filling teensy holes in the window openings with plumber's expoxy) isn't a threat to actual living, but it sure it a threat to quality of life, esp. if a member of the family is a bit phobic.
posted by morganw at 11:20 AM on July 7, 2009


Argentine ants living in vast numbers across Europe, the US and Japan belong to the same inter-related colony, and will refuse to fight one another.

Well, humans do, in fact, fight each other. Pussies.
posted by delmoi at 12:04 PM on July 7, 2009


Argentine Ants (Linepithema humile) have spread to every continent aside from Antarctica...

Every continent except Antarctica? Go figure.
posted by sour cream at 12:47 PM on July 7, 2009


Rafts? They make rafts?

Has anyone else read John Wyndham's novel Web. A species of spiders becomes massively cooperative, traveling (and hunting) in packs. With the packs competing for food, they branch out into more and more ecological niches, filling the trees with enough webbing to take down birds, netting fish, etc. They find us tasty, and can easily find a way around whatever flimsy defenses we throw up.

I don't like to hear that supercooperative ants are getting creative -- not at all.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:05 PM on July 7, 2009


These ants also starred in Italo Calvino's best short story, 'The Argentine Ant', available in English translation in this book.

I'm pretty certain that Carl Stephenson did it first.

With the packs competing for food, they branch out into more and more ecological niches, filling the trees with enough webbing to take down birds, netting fish, etc. They find us tasty, and can easily find a way around whatever flimsy defenses we throw up.

Y HALLO THAR NITEMARE FUEL FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:09 PM on July 7, 2009


These ants are a pest because once a colony finds food in your house, no amount of sealing will keep them out

That strength is the nest's weakness. Dissolve 30g sugar and 5g borax in 100ml boiling water, let it cool, bottle it, and put a bottle cap full next to their little trail. Within quarter of an hour, there will be a solid ring of ants around the edge of the bottle cap. Within an hour, the trail will stop there. Within two days, your local nest will be dead. It generally takes a month or so for another nest to find a way into your house, and you've still got 95% of your borax syrup left to deal with them.
posted by flabdablet at 8:23 PM on July 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


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