Science, Tech & Environment

'Super ants' are on a potentially deadly march in England


Lasius neglectus or Asian ant


April Nobile -

A headline from a British tabloid on Thursday read "Super ants are on the march across southern England". But everyone remain calm. There's no reason to panic ... or is there?

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These ants are "super" because of their numbers — they create massive interconnected colonies spreading over miles.

"There are multiple queens underground, pumping out worker ants into the millions," says David Bullock, who's the head of nature conservation at Hidcote Manor, a historic estate in Gloucestershire, England. "These are super-colonies. That's what the 'super ant' means.”

They're not your garden-variety ants, either. They're Lasius neglectus, otherwise known as Asian ants. Hidcote Manor has had an Asian ant infestation for decades, and Bullock says they're particularly destructive.

“Unlike the very, very similar black ant, which you find in your compost bins and in your garden, [Lasius neglectus] comes into houses a lot and it is attracted to electrical currents," Bullock explains. And that can be a fatal attraction. Too many Asian ants and — zap! — you've got a fire hazard.

So is it time to build that concrete bunker and prepare for the invasion of the fire-starting super ants? Apparently not. In England, the ants are just beginning to show up elsewhere — recently in Buckinghamshire and in Hendon, in northwest London. So far, there's no sign of an infestation in, say, the United States.