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: Factors that drive sexual traits

Provided by Victoria University

2.5 /5 (2 votes)

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

Factors that drive sexual traits

2 minutes ago

Many male animals have multiple displays and behaviours to attract females; and often the larger or greater the better.

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.