Although some pretty terrifying creatures stalk the desolate plains of the Aussie Outback, few match the horror and potential ferocity of the Yellow Crazy Ant [Photo] and Argentine ant [Photo]. These ferocious, relentless bugs are every bit as deadly and fearful as the infamous soldier ants of South America.
Accidentally transported to Australia from their native habitats, the ants normally create small colonies that can be managed by humans that happen to dwell in the proximity of the aggressive creatures.
Entomologists and zoologists rank the Argentine ants as one of the 100 worst invaders on Earth. Yet the Yellow Crazy Ants are magnitudes worse: flesh-eating predators that spray acid in their victim's eyes before busily devouring them.
Super ants creating super colonies
Authorities are scrambling to prevent a possible catastrophe to Australian biodiversity as the invading ants have changed their normal habits and created massive super colonies. Elissa Suhr of the Monash University in Melbourne has stated that the move from Argentina to Australia has limited their species' natural generic diversity and driven them to work more closely together creating a massive super colony that threatens everything around them—including humans.
"In Argentina, their native homeland, ant colonies span tens of metres, are genetically diverse and highly aggressive towards one another," explained Suhr during a BBC interview.
"So population numbers never explode and they are no threat to other plants and animals.
"When they arrived in Australia, in 1939, a change in their structure occurred, changing their behavior so that they are not aggressive towards one another. This has resulted in the colonies becoming one super colony."
Super colony phenomenon spreading across globe
Super colonies of ants have long been known in the South American rain forests and the savannahs of Africa. Recently, however, ant super colonies have been cropping up in regions of Europe and Asia.
During 2010, Yellow Crazy Ants invaded the Johnston Atoll. Susan White, a wildlife biologist and the Project Leader for the Pacific Reefs National Wildlife Refuge Complex that oversees the Johnston Atoll and other nearby islands is quoted as saying the ants are “wreaking havoc, spraying acid into the eyes of birds, and forcing them to abandon nests. Nothing can withstand them.”
White is currently leading the effort to eradicate the dangerous atoll invaders.
Argentine ant invasion spreading
Although far from being among the largest of the ants, Argentine ants are one of the most deadly. Despite their relatively miniscule size—they average only a tenth of an inch in length—they are extremely well-organized, act like an efficient army, and their genetic similarity makes them an army of single-minded clones. These traits permit them to establish and grow super colonies that can swarm over a countryside and into urban areas, taking control of large swaths of land covering as much as hundreds of square miles.
The Argentine ant super colonies and the Yellow Crazy Ant super colonies endanger all life they meet. The colonies have been known to double in size in mere months. They feed on indigenous life—including large animals—and will eat anything they can swarm and overpower including birds, reptiles, and even coastal creatures like crabs.
Argentine ants have been found as far away as California. Authorities there have been fighting a losing battle in an attempt to destroy the invading ants before the insects kill friendly native ants and other California native species.
Recently, the Argentine ants have invaded the city of Melbourne and if the super colony reaches sufficient numbers small pets and even human babies could be at risk from the relentless, aggressive creatures.
Suhr and other scientists have launched emergency research into other known Australian colonies found in the cities of Perth and Adelaide. She worries that if those ants have the same genetic make up as the ones in Melbourne a super colony extending thousands of miles could emerge across greater southern Australia.