Ants using chemical warfare, class project finds
Some kinds of ants produce toxins that can kill other ants, according to a research project at Stanford University.
June 8th, 2011
08:11 AM ET

Ants using chemical warfare, class project finds

U.S. ants defending against their invading Argentine counterparts may have found a deterrent to the fast-spreading colonies: weapons of mass destruction.

Stanford University sophomores conducted a research project that suggests that winter ants have been using a form of chemical warfare – manufacturing a poison in a gland in their abdomens – to stop Argentine ants in their tracks, according to ScienceDaily.

"This is the first well-documented case where a native species is successfully resisting the Argentine ant," Deborah M. Gordon, a biology professor, said in a ScienceDaily article based on a Stanford press release.

Argentine ants, native to - you guessed it - Argentina and other parts of South America, are pervasive in hot climates but have increasingly invaded colder climes.

In 2009 the BBC reported that supercolonies of the species in Europe, Japan and the United States actually had the same parentage, thus forming one intercontinental megacolony.

"If you live in a Mediterranean climate, the Argentine ant is the ant in your kitchen," Gordon said. "These ants, wherever they become established, wipe out all the native ants."

But they're being repelled by winter ants tired of running, the Stanford project has found.

The Stanford project began four years ago as students began observing ant mounds on campus.  “One day it was just winter ants going about their business foraging for food and making trails - just typical ant behavior," said Leah Kuritzky, a Stanford student involved with the project.  "The next day we came back and the ground was littered with Argentine ants. There were dead ants all around and there was a lot of fighting around the nest entrances."

"It turns out the winter ants use the secretion only when they are really overwhelmed, so it is probably energetically very expensive for the winter ant to manufacture and use this stuff," Gordon said.

Gordon said cooler weather in the region may also be contributing to the demise of the Argentine ants.

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Filed under: California • Insects • Nature • Science • U.S.
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Chemical Warfare

    Gee. Why didn't we think of that. (using chemicals to impose our will on others)

    June 8, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dr. Uterizone

    Yes it is true. I am an ant. I have a P.H.D. in chemistry. I developed self-defense poison to destroy those southern pepper bellies. Free at last,free at last.

    June 8, 2011 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Keith B

      thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

      June 8, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      lol uk wht else works just as well is soaking the ant hill in gas and lighting it on fire but you kill everything else and possibly burn your house down

      June 8, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Ants always were smart. I remember that our teachers made us observe them in grade school.
    Now if we could just get the ants to show us how to stop the invasion of socialism into this country.
    OMG–what if they told us to use chemical warfare?

    June 8, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • stanton

      WHERE DO YOU GET THE SICK TWISTED IDEA THAT HELPING YOUR FELLOW MAN IS SOCIALISTIC????? FROM THOSE TEA PARTY MORON'S WHO ARE IN THE OBSTRUCTIONIST REPUBLICAN'S POCKET'S???? THEY HAVE ALMOST DESTROYED OUR COUNTRY AND GOT US INTO A WAR THAT WAS AND IS A LIE ABOUT W.M.D.!!!!!!

      June 12, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. willie nelson

    what did pink panther say when he stepped on an ant? dead ant dead ant dead ant dead ant dead ant dead ant and dead aaaannnttt! sorry hee hee

    June 8, 2011 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mighty Ant

    Get out Dr. Uterizone. I am Mighty Ant and can destroy your lab in Stanford University. Be off before I hack the system and delete all your credentials.

    June 8, 2011 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      mighty ant is no match for my flamethrower

      June 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mrs sippy

    socialism is great! thats what the big spending dems think so ill just go along with it. what? thats what im supposed to do right? now excuse me while i go to work to support the 35 percent of america that is on some form of govt assistance. ask not what your country can do for you.... that always gets the maggots riled have a great day:) off topic but i dont give s**t anymore

    June 8, 2011 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • DarkSock

      Get back in your mound.

      June 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dr. Uterizone

    I'm warning you Mighty Ant,leave these decent people alone. Wait until the year 3,030 when that species is gone and the world is ours. Do not attract attention.

    June 8, 2011 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mighty Ant

    Very well,I shall wait until this self-serving creed of humans destroys itself in 3030. Then ants shall rule. I am Mighty Ant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 8, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  9. €Engleberthumperdink¥£

    @ACP: And then?

    June 8, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ellis from Panama

    I'm gay.

    June 8, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. stanton

    IS BEING ON SOCIAL SECURITY SOME FORM OF ON THE DOLE MRS.SIPPY I WORKED HARD ALL MY LIFE UNTIL WORKING FOR A DEFENSE CONTRACTOR RUINED MY HEALTH ?????? TO PROTECT YOU AND YOUR'S MRS SIPPY DURRING THE COLD WAR !!!!!!!

    June 12, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |