6 Reasons We Should Be Way More Scared Of Ants
[Note: I'm going to talk about how much I hate ants for about 2,000 words. I hope you're OK with that.]
If you live in Southern California, you're intimately familiar with the Argentine ant, and if you live in the world, you can probably guess the basics (it's a tiny, dark, bity, little bastard that is largely ant-like in mannerisms and appearance).
You see them absolutely everywhere -- all over the state, in the wild and in most apartments -- looking for food and water, hiding in your walls. Most of you probably don't think about ants every day, certainly not as a real threat. I'm here to rectify that. This is a warning.
You might be thinking, Hey, no big deal, I'll just step on them, like I do to other things that are smaller than me. They're just ants, like any other ants. But they're not. Argentine ants are special. Special and evil and powerful. They will wait for you to go to sleep, then climb on your face and bite you, (yes, that is a thing they do).They're coming for your family by way of your nightmares and they need to be stopped.
They Don't Belong Here
A lot of people will tell you not to mess with Argentine ants, because they assume, like all insects, AAs keep our delicate ecosystem in check in a variety of world-saving ways. But I won't say that, because I have a library card and my mother didn't drink while she was pregnant with me. While most insects are important to our ecosystem, Argentine ants are far from it. They're just awful bastards and they're worse than mosquitoes. As annoying and malaria-filled as mosquitoes are, we can't get rid of them all, because they provide food for fish, and they also eat up lots of nasty algae and bacteria. They belong in a circle-of-life kind of way, the way that everything belongs.
Except, that is, Argentine ants. As you probably guessed by their name, these buggers are from (and were supposed to stay in) Argentina. Despite that, they're all up in California's shit, as well as the shit of every other continent except Antarctica. They are, first and foremost, invaders, ranked among the 100 worst animal invaders of all time. They're not playing some important positive role in our ecosystem because they don't even belong here, they're just creating a blind trail of destruction and domination.
"Hi, I was exploring your thoughts earlier and I noticed that you're planning on destroying me. I wish you wouldn't think like that."
They used to be part of a functioning ecosystem back in Argentina. According to Elissa Suhr, a doctor in the field of FuckAntsForeverology, "In Argentina ... ant colonies span 10s of meters, are genetically diverse and highly aggressive towards one another, so population numbers never explode and they are no threat to other plants and animals." In Argentina, they were kept in check, like good little shithead bastards, but as soon as they travel out to Australia or California or England or any other damn place, their natural predators are gone and their population blows up. The ants realized that they weren't kings of their domain, so they decided to go find someplace where they could be, like a jaguar that trains itself to fly when it realizes it can't compete with lions for land dominance.
"Oh, wow, this is much easier."
Nature, as she often does, built in a set of checks and balances, but the ants weren't having it. They said, "Check and balance this" and grabbed their stupid ant genitals right in Nature's face.
They're Killing Everything That Does Belong Here
It's not just that they're horrible invaders; they're actually destroying whole civilizations of other creatures. In Australia, they used their numbers and total machine-like dedication to hatred to displace most of the native ants that used to roam around the outback, some of which were 10 times larger than the Argentine ants.
Here in California, they're destroying the ecosystem. First, they invaded and either got rid of or assimilated all of the larger, native ants. Horned lizards used to feed on those big ants but, now that they're gone, the horned lizards are dying out and lizard population is down 50 percent in areas where Argentine ants thrive. The lizards simply can't live on a diet that involves Argentine ants. And all of the animals that depended on the horned lizards for survival? They're fucked too.
The ants invaded and caused a ripple effect of destruction. They're the only creatures on the planet benefiting from this destruction, and they reap these benefits as they continue to grow, covering over 500 miles of California. It's not just that they're annoying, and it's not just that they're invaders, but they're actually hurting the global ecosystem of the planet. Why do we not have a branch of the army dedicated to destroying these things?
Our Poisons Are Useless Against Them
Say what you want about poison, but it sure is good at killing things that eat it. Spraying poison is generally the preferred method of pest control and almost always successful, so it makes sense that you'd try it on these tiny, aggravating Argentine ants. Except, unlike most ants, the Argentine type don't die when you spray them with common pesticide. In fact, and I know this is hard to believe, they do the opposite of dying. They live even harder. According to a site that is dedicated solely to killing ants (I love you guys), spraying Argentine ants with pesticides causes them to lay more eggs. The ants are so amused by your futile attempts to destroy them that it's giving them little rock-hard ant boners. It's their way of saying, "You are impotent to destroy us, and we are anything but."
"Look, honey, a roach motel. Finally somewhere we can fuck in private."
As an added you'll-never-defeat-them bonus, while most species of ants have a single queen in a colony, Argentine ants have several. So if you thought taking out the head ant would solve your problems, you're wrong. Another queen will take its place, and then another and another. The ants have already thought of your clever plan. They're way ahead of you, metaphorically speaking, and all around you, literally speaking.
They're Everywhere. Just Everywhere
I've already mentioned that they cover over 500 miles of California. They cover a few hundred miles in Japan and, in Europe, one colony covers over 3,700 miles. And this all happened just within the last 100 years. I'm terrible at math and refuse to do it, but if my calculations are correct, by 2021, six out of 10 people will be ants.
I misspoke earlier when I described that European antocracy as a "colony." They actually form "supercolonies," which is an interesting term, mostly because I didn't make it up. According to Wikipedia, it's an "underground lair where ants live, breathe, eat and mate," and it's important to remember that no circus, candy shop, Nerf Gun Factory, or any other pleasant dwelling has ever been described as an "underground lair." Underground lairs are for supervillains and perverts. Hey, I wonder what the cross section of those two groups would look like.
Supercolonies happen with Argentine ants and very few other breeds of ant. Normally, when ants are behaving and following the delicate laws of the universe, different ant colonies will compete with or attack each other, for ant dominance or ant shits and giggles. Their loyalties are with the colonies, not the species at large. With Argentine ants, however, the various colonies and nests never fight. If one Argentine ant colony expands and expands and eventually reaches another Argentine ant colony, instead of arguing over who was there first, they just join forces and form one giant colony. Then that colony expands and rubs up against another colony (it's not hard to find another colony when they're fucking everywhere, you guys) and they form an even larger colony. That's called a supercolony, and it's not designed to reach a threshold. It's designed to expand and assimilate, expand and assimilate, forever and ever, until there's nothing left.
While supercolonies aren't specific to Argentine ants, Global "mega-colonies" are. In 2009, Insectes Sociaux reported that three different supercolonies -- one in America, one in Europe and one in Japan -- were actually different branches of the same colony. Scientists gathered these ants from all over the world and put them together, and whenever they got near each other, they "recognize[d] each other by the chemical composition of their cuticles" and started "rubbing antennae together," which is gross in a way that I don't totally understand (I know that antennae aren't the same thing as dicks, but it still weirds me out).
Think about this: It's one colony of the same ants, spread across three different continents, and it's called a global mega-colony. Yes, scientists decided that "global" and "mega" individually weren't enough to emphasize exactly how many freaking ants are in this group, they needed to put both of those terms in the title. They're crossing oceans, now. There's only one other species that is so large and spread across the globe.
And it's us. It's humans. The human race is the only other single species that rivals Argentine ants. And there's going to come a time when the world's No. 1 superpower is going to be challenged by the world's No. 2 superpower for planetary dominance, and we won't be able to handle it. I know this because ...
They're Using Us
Argentine ants can't swim and until the scientific community validates my theory that they've been quietly fashioning jet-packs out of berries and tree-root, they can't fly either. So how did they spread all over the world? How did they form a single colony that's larger than the colonies of any other one insect?
"We did it! Oh ... oh God, we did it!"
It can only be us. Years and years ago, they latched onto us. They sneaked aboard our boats when we shipped sugar and coffee to the rest of the world, and they set up extended camp wherever they landed. They left a scent trail so all other ants knew to follow, and they proceeded to wipe out any of the natives that happened to get in their way (as well as several lizards that clearly weren't). If we decide to set up a colony in space, you can bet they'll follow us there, too.
This is only slightly related, but I just wanted to point out, in case anyone had doubts, that they're in general more sophisticated than we give them credit for, lest anyone think their continent-spanning imperialism was a fluke. Using another species for their own gain is in the ant's DNA. In addition to using us to march across continents, they've set up a complex protection system with certain insects, like aphids. Aphids produce sugar, and ants love sugar, so the ants will make a deal with the aphids. The ants will agree to protect that insect from predators and that insect, in turn, will provide sugar for the ants. Which, yes, is sort of like how we milk cows, but is also almost exactly how the mafia works.
So what's on the scoreboard now? Argentine ants are like the mafia, and the Borg, and perverts and supervillains, and some kind of monster that gets horny when you try to poison it. Yeah? Is that where we're at right now? Okay.
Seriously, We're Not Ready For Them
[Note: Except me. I am at all times ready for everything. I have two sets of nun chucks in my car and I keep baseball bats hidden in my knives. My face is rigged with explosives set to go off whenever a bite is detected. I fire a gun while I sleep. Fucking try me, ants.]
You're not ready for the ant invasion. The invasion's already begun and right at this moment we have no idea how to stop the Argentine ants from doing whatever they want. What happens when "what they want" becomes "total global domination?" That might seem like a stretch, until you realize that Argentine ants feel no compassion, their brains are not developed to recognize the dangers of hubris, and they're not creative enough to have developed cautionary tales to warn idealistic young ants about what happens to the ant who flies too close to the sun. Argentine ants are incapable of feeling contentment. They have no reason to ever stop invading and taking over. If your family was in the billions and stretched across six continents and had never had any trouble destroying enemies, would you stop?
Now, I know most of you are thinking, Daniel, that's some Pulitzer-worthy journalism right there, and a small minority of you might be thinking, Daniel, that's hyperbolic fear-mongering, I'm a fat head. To that first group, thank you. To that second group, is it? Wrap your fat heads around this: This is an organization that can rally its troops -- and remember that "troop" here means "every single member of the species"-- to be singularly focused on one goal. No infighting, no pettiness, no internal arguments for supremacy, just an entire species obsessively working towards one purpose. Every. Single. One of them. Sometimes that purpose is travel, sometimes that purpose is spreading out and building, sometimes that purpose is overthrowing an existing colony, and they are always successful. Regardless of their purpose, they are always unified. Can we do that? When has the world ever come together to agree on anything unanimously? When has the country? We can't get two political parties to agree on a single issue for the greater good of America, so how can we expect to rally the entire planet against a common enemy? That's totally not like us.
They're in California now, but most experts say they'll have expanded to Canada within two years, and most Daniels say they'll have completely reached every state in America even sooner than that. I'm doing my part. My apartment has been ant free for ten months, ever since the day I woke up to an ant biting me on the fucking eyelid. My apartment and, indeed, the area directly surrounding my apartment complex is ant free, but I'm just one man. We can't wait for them to reach Canada. Or, yes, of course, technically we could, because I don't really care about Canada. But that's it. Then, it's time to take a stand. I'm going to spend tonight, like every night, patrolling the area within a five mile radius of my apartment armed only with my wits, and a few small firearms, and an erection you could hang a damn flag on. (Also I'll be doing that.) Because I, for one, am going to fuck our Ant Overlords up.