So-called "super ants" are infesting electrical sockets in the United Kingdom. The species has a distinctive attraction to electricity. The allure is so strong that it can even result in the ants’ death and electrical fires. A nest was spotted in 2009 in Hidcote Manor, a National Trust property in Gloucestershire. An estimated 35,000 ants inhabited the Gloucestershire nest. Now, it’s believed that the species has spread through southern England, and a nest has popped up in London.

Lasius nelgectus’ origination

Lasius neglectus, also referred to as super ants, fire ants or Asian super ants, look similar to common black garden ants. The ant was first discovered and identified in 1990 in Budapest, Hungary. The ants are believed to have originated in Asia, but were first seen in the UK five years ago.

Super ant behavior

The super ants have particularly unique behavioral patterns. Instead of typical nests, the insects form massive "super colonies" that can interconnect over many miles. These systems of multiple nests contain several queens and more than 35,500 ants total. Normal queen ants move to new nests to expand colonies, but super-ant queens mate within their existing colonies. They also do not guard their territory aggressively since all the colonies are related. Unlike normal queens, the super queens are also incapable of flight.

This behavior accounts for the spreading of the species over such a large area. The latest nest is located in Hendon, part of northwest London, a whopping 100 miles from the Hidcote colony. The ants have also been spotted in Buckinghamshire; Jena, Germany; Ghent, Belgium and Warsaw, Poland.

How to spot a nest and help prevent electrical fires

Americans and Canadians probably don’t need to worry about super ant infestations, as the species has yet to cross the Atlantic. However, Europeans and Asians might want to keep a lookout for nests. Super ants do not build typical nests underground, but instead live under flat stones, in topsoil, in trash piles and inside electrical devices and sockets. The species can chew through electrical cables. Nesting in electrical equipment can cause blackouts and also poses a fire hazard.

Regularly inspect commonly infested areas around your home all year round. Unlike traditional ants, L. neglectus can survive very cold temperatures. They are also much more difficult to kill and infestations might require professional assistance from an exterminator.

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