Skip to main content
Log in

Intercontinental union of Argentine ants: behavioral relationships among introduced populations in Europe, North America, and Asia

  • Research Article
  • Published:
Insectes Sociaux Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Many invasive ants, including the Argentine ant Linepithema humile, form expansive supercolonies, within which intraspecific aggression is absent. The behavioral relationships among introduced Argentine ant populations at within-country or within-continent scales have been studied previously, but the behavioral relationships among intercontinental populations have not been examined. The present study investigated the levels of aggression among intercontinental Argentine ant populations by transporting live ants from Europe and California to Japan and conducting aggression tests against Japanese populations. Workers from the dominant supercolonies of Europe and California did not show aggressive behavior toward workers from the dominant supercolony of Japan, whereas they fought vigorously against workers from minor supercolonies. The three massive supercolonies, together with Argentine ants from Macaronesia, may be the largest non-aggressive unit formed by a social insect species in which intraspecific aggression exists. Absence or low levels of aggression at transcontinental scale, which may have derived from low genetic variation, may help introduced Argentine ants maintain expansive supercolonies. The lack of aggression implies possible frequent exchanges of individuals among the intercontinental populations mediated by human activities.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Bhatkar A. and Whitcomb W.H. 1970. Artificial diet for rearing various species of ants. Florida Entomol. 53: 229–232

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Björkman-Chiswell B.T., van Wilgenburg E., Thomas M.L., Swearer S.E. and Elgar M.A. 2008. Absence of aggression but not nestmate recognition in an Australian population of the Argentine ant Linepithema humile. Insect. Soc. 55: 207–212

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Buczkowski G., Kumar R., Suib S.L. and Silverman J. 2005. Diet-related modification of cuticular hydrocarbon profiles of the Argentine ant, Linepithema humile, diminishes intercolony aggression. J. Chem. Ecol. 31: 829–843

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • de Biseau J-C., Passera L., Daloze D. and Aron S. 2004. Ovarian activity correlates with extreme changes in cuticular hydrocarbon profile in the highly polygynous ant, Linepithema humile. J. Insect Physiol. 50: 585–593

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Giraud T., Pedersen J.S. and Keller L. 2002. Evolution of supercolonies: the Argentine ants of southern Europe. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 99: 6075–6079

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Heller N.E. 2004. Colony structure in introduced and native populations of the invasive Argentine ant, Linepithema humile. Insect. Soc. 51: 378–386

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Holway D.A., Lach L., Suarez A.V., Tsutsui N.D. and Case T.J. 2002. Causes and consequences of ant invasions. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 33: 181–233

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Liang D. and Silverman J. 2000. “You are what you eat”: diet modifies cuticular hydrocarbons and nestmate recognition in the Argentine ant, Linepithema humile. Naturwissenschaften 87: 412–416

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Liang D., Blomquist G.J. and Silverman J. 2001. Hydrocarbon-released nestmate aggression in the Argentine ant, Linepithema humile, following encounters with insect prey. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. Part B 129: 871–882

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Pedersen J.S., Krieger M.J.B., Vogel V., Giraud T. and Keller L. 2006. Native supercolonies of unrelated individuals in the invasive Argentine ant. Evolution 60: 782–791

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Suarez A.V., Holway D.A. and Case T.J. 2001. Patterns of spread in biological invasions dominated by long-distance jump dispersal: insights from Argentine ants. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 98: 1095–1100

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Sunamura E., Nishisue K., Terayama M. and Tatsuki S. 2007. Invasion of four Argentine ant supercolonies into Kobe Port, Japan: their distributions and effects on indigenous ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology 50: 659–674

    Google Scholar 

  • Sunamura E., Hatsumi S., Karino S., Nishisue K., Terayama M., Kitade O. and Tatsuki S. (2009). Four mutually incompatible Argentine ant supercolonies in Japan: inferring invasion history of introduced Argentine ants from their social structure. Biol. Invasions: in press (doi: 10.1007/s10530-008-9419-7)

  • Tsutsui N.D., Suarez A.V., Holway D.A. and Case T.J. 2000. Reduced genetic variation and the success of an invasive species. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 97: 5948–5953

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Tsutsui N.D., Suarez A.V., Holway D.A. and Case T.J. 2001. Relationships among native and introduced populations of the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) and the source of introduced populations. Mol. Ecol. 10: 2151–2161

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Tsutsui N.D., Suarez A.V. and Grosberg R.K. 2003. Genetic diversity, asymmetrical aggression, and recognition in a widespread invasive species. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 100: 1078–1083

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wetterer J.K. and Wetterer A.L. 2006. A disjunct Argentine ant metacolony in Macaronesia and southwestern Europe. Biol. Invasions 8: 1123–1129

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We would like to thank N. Tsutsui, E. van Wilgenburg, and A. Smith for graciously providing Argentine ants from California, P. Lester, Y. Tsuneoka and two anonymous referees for helpful comments on the manuscript, J. Wetterer and A. Suarez for kind support. This work was supported by a grant from MEC-FEDER (CGL2007-64080-CO2-01/BOS) to XE, and Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Fellows (20·6386) to ES.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to E. Sunamura.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Sunamura, E., Espadaler, X., Sakamoto, H. et al. Intercontinental union of Argentine ants: behavioral relationships among introduced populations in Europe, North America, and Asia. Insect. Soc. 56, 143–147 (2009).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: