Which ant cre­ates the largest nests?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Our World - Richard Jones

AAnt hills made by the yel­low meadow ant, and the heaped leaf-lit­ter nests of wood ants, al­ways look im­pres­sive but pale into in­signif­i­cance com­pared with the sub­ter­ranean cities of ex­otic species. In Cen­tral and South Amer­ica, the in­ter­con­nected labyrinth of brood cham­bers, fun­gus gar­dens (us­ing those cut leaves as com­post) stor­age si­los and waste stor­age fa­cil­i­ties of leaf­cut­ter ants can reach the size of a ten­nis court. Ex­per­i­ments in which la­tex or plas­ter is poured into these tun­nels, then ex­ca­vated, have re­vealed struc­tures the size of cam­per vans, sug­gest­ing colony pop­u­la­tions of six mil­lion ants.

How­ever, the largest colonies may be those of the Ar­gen­tine ant Linep­ithema hu­mile, an in­va­sive ‘tramp’ species na­tive to South Amer­ica. In North Amer­ica, Ja­pan, Aus­tralia, South Africa and Europe, where the species has been ac­ci­den­tally in­tro­duced, neigh­bour­ing colonies have min­gled and united to form su­per­colonies. The main su­per­colony in Europe, span­ning 6,000km2 in Spain, Por­tu­gal, France and Italy, may com­prise half a bil­lion ants.

More than 100,000 red wood ants may live in each colony, cre­at­ing a large nest with leaf lit­ter or pine nee­dles.

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