During the thousands of years that humans have been on Earth, we’ve gone around and colonized almost every part of the planet. What many people don’t realize is that one other creature has quietly followed along and done the same thing right under our feet. While tiny, ants have created some massive colonies. Discover more about the largest ant colonies in the world.

Abandoned Colony in South America

Image via Flickr by Furryscaly

Scientists have found an abandoned leafcutter ant city in Brazil that they believe once housed millions of ants. The colony was so large it even included paths, highways, and gardens, although no one is sure what caused the ants to leave their home. However, by pouring concrete into holes on the surface, scientists have been able to preserve the city, which stretches 26 feet below the surface and takes up around 500 square feet of space.

Hokkaido Ant Colony

Up until the year 2000, most scientists believed the largest ant colony in the world was a supercolony of red wood ants found in Hokkaido, Japan. This colony has 45,000 nests that all connect together by a series of tunnels, creating an ant city that covers around 670 acres. Scientists studying the colony believe that at one time there were around 1.1 million queen ants and 306 million worker ants living there. They also think the colony started over 1,000 years ago. However, development around the area has cut the number of ants living in the colony by around half.

Argentine Ants in Southern Europe

As the name suggests, Argentine ants are originally from South America. However, humans have unintentionally introduced this invasive species on every continent except Antarctica, and the ants have made themselves right at home. In 2000, scientists discovered a supercolony of Argentine ants in Southern Europe that dwarfed the colony found in Japan. Scientists believe the colony stretches for 3,700 miles and has 33 ant populations with millions of nests and billions of workers.

Argentine Ants in California

Argentine ants have also created another supercolony in California that scientists call the “Californian large.” This gigantic colony spreads over 560 miles along the California coast. Scientists who are studying these colonies realize that unlike other ant colonies, Argentine ants can recognize each other as part of the same species and not attack other colonies. Instead, they’ll work together to keep building their nests larger and taking over more land.

Ant Supercolony in Australia

Europe and North America aren’t the only continents dealing with Argentine ants. Another supercolony is also situated in Melbourne, Australia. This supercolony is 60 miles across and home to millions of ants. It’s thought that the Argentine ants arrived sometime in the 1930s, and while they don’t harm humans, they can completely disrupt the eco-system. There are also reports of these ants overwhelming chicken farms and killing hatchlings.

While we normally think of humans colonizing the world, the small but industrious ant has also done an incredible job of creating massive cities. The next time you’re walking outside, you might just be going over one of these immense supercolonies.