Ant interceptions reveal roles of transport and commodity in identifying biosecurity risk pathways into Australia.
We obtained 14,140 interception records of ants arriving in Australia between 1986 and 2010 to examine taxonomic and biogeographic patterns of invasion. We also evaluated how trade and transport data influenced interception rates, the identity of species being transported, the commerce most associated with the transport of ants, and which countries are the primary sources for ants arriving in Australia. The majority of ant interceptions, accounting for 48% of interceptions, were from Asia and Oceania. The top commodities associated with ant interceptions were: (1) Live trees, plants, cut flowers; (2) Wood and wood products; (3) Edible vegetables; and (4) Edible fruit and nuts. The best fitting model for predicting ant interceptions included volumes for these four commodities, as well as total trade value, transport volume, and geographic distance (with increased distance decreasing predicted ant interceptions). Intercepted ants identified to species consisted of a combination of species native to Australia, introduced species already established in Australia, and species not yet known to be established. 82% of interceptions identified to species level were of species already known to be established in Australia with Paratrechina longicornis having the most records. These data provide key biogeographic insight into the overlooked transport stage of the invasion process. Given the difficult nature of eradication, once an ant species is firmly established, focusing on early detection and quarantine is key for reducing the establishment of new invasions.