Argentine Ants

Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) are one of the most common ants around the house and garden. An invasive species from South America entering North America in the late 1890’s. Argentine ants have built three supercolonies, one in California, the other two in Europe and Japan. This is one of the reasons we have ant problems year round!
Argentine ant "farming" aphids

Argentine ant tending an aphid

Identification and Habitat

Argentine ants lack a spine on their thorax. They have one dark colored node (nodes are between the thorax and abdomen, some ants have two nodes). These ants are about 1/8 of an inch long, light or dark brown, and produce a faint, greasy odor when crushed. In California, Argentine ants have become the most common ant around and inside of the home. They can be found in the kitchen pantry, bathrooms, children’s rooms, closets, electrical outlets, even in the freezer during the hot summer months!

Food Sources

Besides sweets, the Argentine ant will eat meats, eggs, oils and fats. Also, when foraging for food, Argentine ants are very good at leaving pheromone trails everywhere they go, not just from the nest to the food source.
Argentine ants search out protein as well as sweets.

Argentine ants search out protein as well as sweets.

Argentine ants are excellent communicators; their trails of pheromones ensures them that they don’t waste time visiting the same area twice!


These ants are a little different than other species; they have more than one queen and the queens assists the worker ants in foraging for food, whereas in most species, the queen ant has lost the ability to forage and depends on her worker daughters for sustenance.

Invasive War Tactics

Argentine ants have become a serious threat to the Coast Horned Lizard which relies on large, native ants like the Harvester ant for its main food source. Argentine ants have destroyed and displaced the Harvester ant and caused a significant decline in native ant population. Argentine ants are vicious soldiers; they fight native Harvester ants and other species over territorial rights. When engaging in battle, Argentine ants use special war tactics; they first surround their enemy, then one ant rushes in and grabs the enemy’s leg, the other ants quickly follow and bite off all of the legs, leaving the enemy ant immobilized, the Argentine ants then continue biting to completely dismember their victim, causing their enemy to die a very slow death.

Damaging vs. Beneficial Insect

Argentine ants can cause damage to air conditioners, and other electrical items when they get inside the units. They often become electrocuted and lodged between the contacts of relays which causes the equipment to malfunction. Argentine ants, like other ant species, are farmers of aphids for the honeydew they secrete. The ants actually encourage these garden pests to multiply and even protect them from other predators! One redeeming quality of Argentine ants, however, is how they help control dry-wood (aerial) termites by searching out their nests and eating the termites.

Pest Control for Argentine Ants

Spraying alone will not control a colony of Argentine ants. Hearts Pest Management technicians are able to identify the type of ant invading a home and use the appropriate methods for eliminating ants. The best way of controlling Argentine ants is through the use of slow-acting poison baits, which once the ants eat or get it on their skin, they carry the bait back to the nest and eventually, the poison eliminates the other workers and even the queen. It may take up to four or five days to completely eradicate a colony. It’s important remove any food sources, especially sweets and caulk or use petroleum jelly on any holes where they can be seen coming in. You can also use soapy water to wipe up any invaders until your technician is able to treat with the appropriate baits. Call today at 1-800-986-1006 for help with an Argentine ant infestation. You’re also welcome to complete the form below and a caring Hearts Pest Management representative will contact you shortly.

Location, Origin and Migration of the Argentine Ant in the United States

These ants are native to South America and were first identified in Argentina, (thereby deriving the name Argentine Ant). It is believed that they entered the United States on ships importing coffee in the port of New Orleans approximately in 1890 and identified in California by 1905. They are now found on all populated continents. This invasive species have built three super-colonies, Asia, Europe, and guess where? California! This is one of the reasons we have ant issues year-round. Argentine Ants

Biology of Argentine Ants

Argentine Ants are about 2-3 mm (1/8″) long and are usually light or dark brown. The abdomen may appear silvery after heavy feeding. Workers are all one size although a larger queen may be seen foraging in the open. Argentine ants can be identified by lack of spines on their thorax as well as having 1 dark colored node. They also produce a faint grease-like odor when they are crushed. Males are winged and can be seen foraging at times along with the workers and may be seen trailing. Queens can live to 10 years. The colony will not self-destruct when the queen dies as other queens are created to take its’ place. Queen is 2-4 times the size of the workers. Argentine ants have a lot of queens, as many as eight for every 1,000 workers.

Argentine Ant Food Source

Argentine ants search out protein as well as sweets.

Argentine ants search out protein as well as sweets.

Most of the Argentine An diet consists of insect secretions and body fluids as well as, sweets, fruits, buds, syrups, oils, honeydews of aphids and several other insects (70% of diet). They will also consumer proteins, such as egg yolks, insects (dead or alive), organic matter. One customer called about an ant infestation in their kitchen. Evidently, a tiny bit of ham had fallen to the floor the night before and by morning, it was covered in ants with trails leading outside!

Habitat and Range

Argentine ants live in colonies of several thousand to millions, including satellite colonies. Argentine ants are known to view seemingly unrelated Argentine ant colonies as close relations. Therefore, they do not attack each other. They will team up for common interests and launch joint attacks. Researches have called these groupings of Argentine ants “Super-colonies.” The development of these supercolonies is attributed to the strong genetic similarity of Argentine ant colonies. Some super-colonies have been stated to extend several hundred miles. Generally Argentine Ants can be found –

Indoors: Just about anywhere from the kitchen pantries to children’s rooms, along floors, walls and ceilings, in the garage, along water pipes and electrical lines.

Outdoors: They are often found where there are dead or decaying insects and rodents.

Once, we found them in a light switch box where a young mouse had become logged and died. During summers, we have found them even in freezers!

From their native range in Argentina, the L. Humile has spread across the world. (Map: A Suarez)

Damage done by Argentine Ants

Argentine ants, due to their use of pest secretions, act in ways that increase the pest activity of crop destroying insects, such as aphids and scales. They are attracted by electrical currents and are known to have caused damage to air conditioners, heat pumps, telephone junction boxes, etc. When they become lodged or electrocuted between the contacts of relays, it damages the contacts and causes the equipment controlled by the relay to malfunction.

Click to follow link for an Image of damage caused by Argentine Ants.


Controlling Argentine Ants with Professional Products and Techniques

There are many methods for controlling Argentine Ants. Flowables, baits, non-repellents and repellents, natural products, and certainly cultural practices such are proper handling and disposal of garbage and landscape management all have their place.


The following are just a few of many products:
  • Low Toxicity
  • EcoSmart EcoExemptIC2
  • EcoPCO product set (aerosols, dust)
  • Non-Repellent
  • Termidor – limited use label
  • Phantom – for indoor use in combination with Termidor
  • Transport – new on the market (two active ingredients including imidicloprid and pyrethrins)
  • Repellent
  • Pyrethins and Pyrethroid, many now available in encapsoled versions for extended control
  • Baits
  • Maxforce Antgel
  • Optiguard
  • Intice
  • Dust
  • EcoSmart EcoPCO D-X
  • Delta Dust
Argentine ants are a common household pest, often entering structures in search of food or water (particularly during dry or hot weather), or to escape flooded nests during periods of heavy rainfall. Argentine ant colonies almost invariably have many reproductive queens, as many as eight for every 1,000 workers, so eliminating a single queen does not stop the colony’s ability to breed. When they invade a kitchen, it is not uncommon to see two or three queens foraging along with the workers.
outdoor ant nest

Argentine ant nest.

Due to their nesting behavior and presence of numerous queens in each colony, it is generally impractical to spray Argentine ants with pesticides or to use boiling water as with mound building ants. Indeed, spraying with pesticides will stimulate increased egg-laying by the queens, compounding the problem.

Pest control usually requires exploiting their omnivorous dietary habits. They prefer sweet foods such as the honeydew produced by aphids and mealybugs. The most effective control is through use of slow-acting poison bait, which will be carried back to the nest by the workers, eventually killing all the individuals, including the queens. It may take four to five days to eradicate a colony in this manner. An effective homemade recipe consists of a solution of granulated white table sugar and boric acid, placed in a shallow dish in the area being invaded:

Focus efforts on keeping ants out of the house. Follow good sanitation practices to make your home less attractive to ants. Spraying ants inside the home will not prevent more ants from entering. Use baits to control the ant colony.

Customer Assistance in Argentine Ant control:

When ants invade your home, take immediate action:

  Sponge invaders with soapy water as soon as you see them. Plug up ant entryways with caulk or petroleum jelly. Remove infested potted plants. Clean up food sources such as sugary spills, pet food, or garbage. Rely on baits to control the ant colony. Indoor sprays are not usually necessary

Prevention of Argentine Ant Infestations

Focus efforts on following good sanitation practices and excluding ants from buildings.

Keep ants off of trees or shrubs near buildings. Be prepared for annual invasions by caulking and baiting before the influx.
For more information on ants and ant species, visit our page on Ant Control
Product Information
Review our Product Labels and MSDS Sheets which we regularly amend to bring you the best products on the market for ant control.
Call today at 800-986-1006 for help with an Argentine ant infestation. You’re also welcome to complete the form below and a caring Hearts Pest Management representative will contact you shortly.
Call Now 1-800-986-1006 or complete the form below

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