Populations of invasive ants die out naturally, saving millions in control and eradication

Dec 01, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- New research shows populations of an invasive species of ants frequently collapse without human involvement, potentially saving millions of dollars on control and eradication.

The research, led by Meghan Cooling and Dr Phil Lester in the School of at Victoria University, focused on large infestations of in New Zealand. These infestations, often covering many hectares, were observed to collapse and disappear 10-20 years after arrival.

"This invasive ant was predicted to cost New Zealand up to $68 million per year, in addition to it being a major threat to our . That populations seem to naturally collapse on their own accord represents a major saving to taxpayers and our biodiversity," says Dr Lester.

He says that Argentine ants substantially alter biodiversity in the area but appeared to recover quickly after the ant populations collapsed.

"The biodiversity in areas where Argentine ants had collapsed was indistinguishable from areas that were never invaded, within just a few years post-collapse. Our next big challenge is to understand why these populations collapse."

He believes native pathogens or parasites are likely to be responsible.

"Our ultimate goal is to manipulate or enhance such pathogens for control," he says.

Genetic work in the laboratory at Victoria University indicated the Argentine ants came to New Zealand via Australia, and likely arose from the introduction of a single nest.

"We found that the ants formed a ‘supercolony’ where ants from different areas cooperated, probably because they were genetically similar. Importantly, this lack of genetic diversity might also make them more susceptible to ."

The research also noted that the time it took for populations to collapse was extended in areas with higher temperature and decreased rainfall, indicating that climate change may extend the lifespan of infestations, but only by a few years.

The research was published today in the prestigious journal Biology Letters.

Explore further: Scientists discover new 'transformer frog' in Ecuador

Related Stories

Attack of the invasive garden ants

Feb 26, 2008

An ant that is native to Eurasia is threatening to become the latest in a procession of species to invade Europe, as a result of inadvertent human introduction. Research published in the online open access ...

Angry wasps deal to their competitors

Mar 30, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists at Victoria University have identified a surprising and previously unknown behaviour in the animal world by studying interactions between native ants and invasive wasps in South Island beech forests.

Recommended for you

Scientists discover new 'transformer frog' in Ecuador

14 hours ago

It doesn't turn into Prince Charming, but a new species of frog discovered in Ecuador has earned the nickname "transformer frog" for its ability to change its skin from spiny to smooth in five minutes.

US gives threatened status to northern long-eared bat

16 hours ago

The federal government said Wednesday that it is listing the northern long-eared bat as threatened, giving new protections to a species that has been nearly wiped out in some areas by the spread of a fungal ...

Mice sing like songbirds to woo mates

17 hours ago

Male mice sing surprisingly complex songs to seduce females, sort of like songbirds, according to a new Duke study appearing April 1 in the Frontiers of Behavioral Neuroscience.

A new crustacean species found in Galicia

17 hours ago

One reason that tourists are attracted to Galicia is for its food. The town of O Grove (Pontevedra) is well known for its Seafood Festival and the Spider Crab Festival. A group of researchers from the University ...

Ants in space find it tougher going than those on Earth

19 hours ago

(Phys.org)—The results of a study conducted to see how well ants carry out their search activities in space are in, and the team that sent them there has written and published the results in the journal ...

Rats found able to recognize pain in other rat faces

19 hours ago

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers working in Japan with affiliations to several institutions in that country, has found that lab rats are able to recognize pain in the faces of other rats and avoid them ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.