An international team of researchers have found that certain species of ants have an unusual way of invading a large area – they cooperate with other colonies to form a supercolony.
While common ant colonies compete with neighbouring colonies for resources and territory, invasive ants dispose of all aggressiveness and work together to form enormous supercolonies consisting in thousands of interconnected nests.
The researchers focussed their study on an invasive ant species Lasius neglectus.
Lasius neglectus, identified in 1990, is currently expanding throughout Europe and occupies large extensions of parks and gardens.
These invasive ants eradicate most native ants and other insect populations, damage trees, and in many cases cause economic and social problems by invading people''s homes.
This species is similar to the common black garden ant, but are smaller and lighter in colour and can work up to nine times faster than their common garden counterparts.
The researchers found that one of the key behavioural elements of these ants consists in forming interconnected nests, with many queens mating within existing colonies instead of starting a new one.
The study warns that invasive ant populations such as the Lasius neglectus can become a problem of global dimensions.
The research is published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE.