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Datasheet

Linepithema humile (Argentine ant)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 14 July 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Linepithema humile
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Argentine ant
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • L. humile is one of the most invasive and problematic ant species in the world according to the Invasive Species Specialist Group (<a _fcksavedurl="http://www.issg.org/database" href="http://www.issg.org/database _fcksavedurl="http://www.issg.org/database" href=""></a _fcksavedurl="http://www.issg.org/database" href="http://www.issg.org/database>...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Linepithema humile (Argentine ant); adult. Museum mounted specimen. USA.
TitleWorker
CaptionLinepithema humile (Argentine ant); adult. Museum mounted specimen. USA.
Copyright©Eli Sarnat, PIAkey/Invasive Ants of the Pacific Islands/USDA APHIS ITP/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Linepithema humile (Argentine ant); adult. Museum mounted specimen. USA.
WorkerLinepithema humile (Argentine ant); adult. Museum mounted specimen. USA.©Eli Sarnat, PIAkey/Invasive Ants of the Pacific Islands/USDA APHIS ITP/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Linepithema humile (Argentine ant); adult, face. L. humile workers are monomorphic, displaying no physical differentiation. Workers  are small, medium to dark brown ants, reaching 2-3 mm in length. Body surface is smooth, shiny and lacks hairs on the dorsum of the head and thorax. The petiole is composed of a single, scale-like segment and a sting is absent. Characteristics: Mandbiles 5-8 large teeth, 5-13 smaller denticles. First apical tooth elongate and much longer than the second tooth. Front margin of clypeus above mandibles with a broad, shallow concavity. Relatively low placement of eyes. Tear-drop shaped head with widest point well above eyes. Hairs on the front margin of clypeus above mandibles straight. Upper face of propodeum generally same length or longer than rear face.
TitleAdult face
CaptionLinepithema humile (Argentine ant); adult, face. L. humile workers are monomorphic, displaying no physical differentiation. Workers are small, medium to dark brown ants, reaching 2-3 mm in length. Body surface is smooth, shiny and lacks hairs on the dorsum of the head and thorax. The petiole is composed of a single, scale-like segment and a sting is absent. Characteristics: Mandbiles 5-8 large teeth, 5-13 smaller denticles. First apical tooth elongate and much longer than the second tooth. Front margin of clypeus above mandibles with a broad, shallow concavity. Relatively low placement of eyes. Tear-drop shaped head with widest point well above eyes. Hairs on the front margin of clypeus above mandibles straight. Upper face of propodeum generally same length or longer than rear face.
Copyright©PaDIL/Simon Hinkley & Ken Walker/Museum Victoria - CC BY 3.0 AU
Linepithema humile (Argentine ant); adult, face. L. humile workers are monomorphic, displaying no physical differentiation. Workers  are small, medium to dark brown ants, reaching 2-3 mm in length. Body surface is smooth, shiny and lacks hairs on the dorsum of the head and thorax. The petiole is composed of a single, scale-like segment and a sting is absent. Characteristics: Mandbiles 5-8 large teeth, 5-13 smaller denticles. First apical tooth elongate and much longer than the second tooth. Front margin of clypeus above mandibles with a broad, shallow concavity. Relatively low placement of eyes. Tear-drop shaped head with widest point well above eyes. Hairs on the front margin of clypeus above mandibles straight. Upper face of propodeum generally same length or longer than rear face.
Adult faceLinepithema humile (Argentine ant); adult, face. L. humile workers are monomorphic, displaying no physical differentiation. Workers are small, medium to dark brown ants, reaching 2-3 mm in length. Body surface is smooth, shiny and lacks hairs on the dorsum of the head and thorax. The petiole is composed of a single, scale-like segment and a sting is absent. Characteristics: Mandbiles 5-8 large teeth, 5-13 smaller denticles. First apical tooth elongate and much longer than the second tooth. Front margin of clypeus above mandibles with a broad, shallow concavity. Relatively low placement of eyes. Tear-drop shaped head with widest point well above eyes. Hairs on the front margin of clypeus above mandibles straight. Upper face of propodeum generally same length or longer than rear face.©PaDIL/Simon Hinkley & Ken Walker/Museum Victoria - CC BY 3.0 AU
Linepithema humile (Argentine ant); ant trail from bait to house. Tifton, Georgia, USA. June, 2010.
TitleAnt trail from bait to house
CaptionLinepithema humile (Argentine ant); ant trail from bait to house. Tifton, Georgia, USA. June, 2010.
Copyright©Joseph LaForest, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Linepithema humile (Argentine ant); ant trail from bait to house. Tifton, Georgia, USA. June, 2010.
Ant trail from bait to houseLinepithema humile (Argentine ant); ant trail from bait to house. Tifton, Georgia, USA. June, 2010.©Joseph LaForest, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Linepithema humile (Argentine ant); adults, feeding on fipronil gel bait.  Los Angeles, California, USA.
TitleAdults feeding on a gel bait
CaptionLinepithema humile (Argentine ant); adults, feeding on fipronil gel bait. Los Angeles, California, USA.
Copyright©Whitney Cranshaw/Colorado State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Linepithema humile (Argentine ant); adults, feeding on fipronil gel bait.  Los Angeles, California, USA.
Adults feeding on a gel baitLinepithema humile (Argentine ant); adults, feeding on fipronil gel bait. Los Angeles, California, USA.©Whitney Cranshaw/Colorado State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Linepithema humile (Argentine ant); adults,f eeding on sugar water/boric acid bait.  Los Angeles, California, USA.
TitleAdults feeding on a sugar water bait
CaptionLinepithema humile (Argentine ant); adults,f eeding on sugar water/boric acid bait. Los Angeles, California, USA.
Copyright©Whitney Cranshaw/Colorado State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Linepithema humile (Argentine ant); adults,f eeding on sugar water/boric acid bait.  Los Angeles, California, USA.
Adults feeding on a sugar water baitLinepithema humile (Argentine ant); adults,f eeding on sugar water/boric acid bait. Los Angeles, California, USA.©Whitney Cranshaw/Colorado State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Linepithema humile (Mayr, 1868)

Preferred Common Name

  • Argentine ant

Other Scientific Names

  • Iridomyrmex humilis (Mayr, 1868)

International Common Names

  • Spanish: hormiga Argentina; hormiga invasora (Argentina)
  • French: fourmi d'Argentine
  • Portuguese: formiga Argentina; formiga-Argentina

Local Common Names

  • Argentina: hormiga invasora
  • Denmark: argentinsk myre
  • Germany: Argentinische Ameise
  • Sweden: argentinsk myra

EPPO code

  • IRIDHU (Iridomyrmex humilis)

Summary of Invasiveness

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L. humile is one of the most invasive and problematic ant species in the world according to the Invasive Species Specialist Group (www.issg.org/database). Native to South America, it has spread worldwide in areas with Mediterranean-type climates usually associated with disturbed habitats as a result of human commercial activities. Its capacity to tolerate a wide range of abiotic conditions, its generalist dietary requirements and its unicolonial organization, which lead to the formation of large supercolonies, allow the species to spread easily and occupy a wide range of areas. In these areas, L. humile has impacted native ant faunas leading to changes in arthropod communities, ant-vertebrate interactions and ant-plant relationships. Its presence has also had economic effects, such as damage to infrastructure, and negative effects on crops and plantations due to its mutualistic interactions with hemipterans, which can affect the growth and production of the host plant.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Hymenoptera
  •                         Family: Formicidae
  •                             Genus: Linepithema
  •                                 Species: Linepithema humile

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Prior to Shattuck’s revision in 1992 (Shattuck, 1992), the species was included in the genus Iridomyrmex under the Latin name of Iridomyrmex humilis.

Description

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The workers of L. humile are small (2-3 mm long), brown and monomorphic. Their body surface is free of erect hairs on the dorsum, thorax and head. Their petiole is small and composed of a single segment (Newell and Barber, 1913).

Males are also small (2.8-3 mm long), winged, dark brown, with a very robust and elliptical thorax, broader than the head (Newell and Barber, 1913).

Queens are larger (4.5-5 mm long), dark brown with a large thorax, as broad as the head. Virgin queens have long narrow wings (Newell and Barber, 1913).
 
Eggs are elliptical, pearly white with a thin, delicate membrane; the average size is 0.3 mm long by 0.2 mm wide. The larva is considerably curved after hatching and becomes straighter as development progresses. A recently hatched larva measures approximately 0.49 mm long by 0.32 wide, while fully grown worker larvae average 1.7 mm long by 0.66 mm wide. The worker pupa is white after transformation from the larval stage and changes colour as development progresses, taking a creamy colour in the beginning and having a dark brown colour at the end. Male pupa are fully 50% larger than worker pupa with a larger thorax and an average length of 3.04 mm. The queen pupa is very easily distinguished due to its size, being more than twice as large as a worker pupa (Newell and Barber, 1913).

Distribution

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L. humile is native to the Paraná River drainage basin in subtropical South America (between northern Argentina, southern Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay) (Suarez et al., 2001; Tsutsui and Suarez, 2003; Wild, 2004). In Argentina both native and invasive colonies have been reported.

The distribution map includes records based on specimens of L. humile from collections in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (LACM), California, USA; Museo Argentina de Ciencias Naturales (MACN), Buenos Aires, Argentina; Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo (MZSP), São Paulo, Brazil; Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Tallahassee, Florida; Entomology Museum, Oregon Department of Agriculture; and The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

JapanPresentIntroduced Invasive Kameyama, 2001; ISSG, 2011
-HonshuWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Okaue et al., 2007
United Arab EmiratesPresentIntroduced Invasive Collingwood et al., 1997; ISSG, 2011

Africa

LesothoPresentIntroduced Invasive Prins, 1978
NamibiaPresentIntroducedEspadaler et al., 2004
South AfricaPresentIntroduced1901 Invasive Bond and Slingsby, 1984; ISSG, 2011
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroduced1965 Invasive ISSG, 2011
ZimbabwePresentIntroduced Invasive Ferrer, 2000

North America

BermudaPresentIntroduced Invasive Haskins and Haskins, 1988; ISSG, 2011
MexicoPresentIntroduced Invasive Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County; ISSG, 2011
USAPresentIntroduced1891 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-AlabamaPresentIntroduced Invasive Newell and Barber, 1913
-ArizonaPresentIntroduced Invasive Suarez et al., 2001; ISSG, 2011
-ArkansasPresentIntroduced Invasive Barber, 1916; ISSG, 2011
-CaliforniaPresentIntroduced1907 Invasive Woodworth, 1908; ISSG, 2011
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Invasive Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Tallahassee, Florida; ISSG, 2011
-GeorgiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Barber, 1916; ISSG, 2011
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced1940 Invasive Wilson and Taylor, 1967
-IllinoisPresentIntroduced Invasive Smith, 1936
-LouisianaPresentIntroduced1891 Invasive Foster, 1908; ISSG, 2011
-MarylandPresentIntroduced Invasive Smith, 1936
-MinnesotaPresentIntroducedForshcler and Evans, 1994
-MississippiPresentIntroduced Invasive Harned and Smith, 1922; ISSG, 2011
-MissouriPresentIntroduced Invasive Center for Urban Structural Entomology, 2008
-NevadaPresentIntroduced Invasive Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County; ISSG, 2011
-North CarolinaPresentIntroduced Invasive Smith, 1936; ISSG, 2011
-OregonPresentIntroduced Invasive Entomology Museum, Oregon Department of Agriculture; ISSG, 2011
-South CarolinaPresentIntroduced Invasive Barber, 1916; ISSG, 2011
-TennesseePresentIntroduced Invasive Barber, 1916; ISSG, 2011
-TexasPresentIntroduced Invasive Suarez et al., 2001; ISSG, 2011
-WashingtonPresentIntroduced Invasive Suarez et al., 2001; ISSG, 2011

Central America and Caribbean

CubaPresentIntroduced1995 Invasive ISSG, 2011
El SalvadorPresentIntroduced Invasive Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

South America

ArgentinaPresentNative Not invasive Museo Argentina de Ciencias Naturales, Buenos Aires, Argentina; ISSG, 2011
BrazilPresentNative Not invasive ISSG, 2011
-GoiasPresentIntroduced Invasive Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo
-Minas GeraisPresentIntroduced Invasive Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo
-Rio de JaneiroPresentIntroduced Invasive Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo
ChilePresentIntroduced Invasive Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County; ISSG, 2011
-Easter IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County; ISSG, 2011
ColombiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
EcuadorPresentIntroduced Invasive Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
ParaguayPresentNative Not invasive ISSG, 2011
PeruPresentIntroduced Invasive Dale, 1974; ISSG, 2011
UruguayPresentIntroduced Invasive Newell and Barber, 1913; ISSG, 2011
VenezuelaPresentIntroduced Invasive

Europe

BelgiumPresentIntroduced Invasive Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, Geneva, Switzerland
FrancePresentIntroduced Invasive Benois, 1973; ISSG, 2011
-CorsicaPresentIntroduced1970 Invasive ISSG, 2011
GermanyPresentIntroduced Invasive Donisthorpe, 1927
ItalyPresentCollingwood et al., 1997
-SicilyPresentIntroduced1926 Invasive ISSG, 2011
MonacoWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Bernard, 1968
NetherlandsPresentIntroducedBoer and Vierbergen, 2008
NorwayPresent only under cover/indoorsIntroduced Not invasive Gómez et al., 2005
PortugalPresentIntroduced1900 Invasive Silva Dias, 1955; ISSG, 2011
-AzoresPresentIntroduced1940ISSG, 2011
-MadeiraPresentIntroduced1882 Invasive ISSG, 2011
SpainPresentIntroduced Invasive Espadaler and Gómez, 2003; ISSG, 2011
SwitzerlandPresentIntroduced1980 Invasive ISSG, 2011
UKPresentIntroduced Invasive Cornwell, 1978; ISSG, 2011

Oceania

AustraliaRestricted distributionIntroduced1939 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-New South WalesPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Invasive The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois
-TasmaniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Harris, 2002; ISSG, 2011
-VictoriaPresentIntroduced Invasive Shattuck, 1999
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroduced Invasive Schagen et al., 1994
New ZealandRestricted distributionIntroducedMarch 2000 Invasive Harris, 2002; ISSG, 2011

History of Introduction and Spread

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In Hawaii, L. humile has frequently been intercepted in goods shipped from California. In Honolulu its establishment was first reported in 1940 (Zimmerman, 1941). It reached Maui by 1950 (Wilson and Taylor, 1967) and Haleakala National Park by 1967 (Huddleston and Fluker, 1968). The date when L. humile reached the island of Hawaii remains unknown.

According to Newell and Barber (1913)L. humile is supposed to have been introduced into New Orleans by means of the coffee ships passing back and forth between that city and Brazilian ports, as this was the only way of communication between New Orleans and the areas native to the species, and because the ants were first noticed near the areas where these ships unloaded their cargoes.

The date at which L. humile reached the Iberian Peninsula also remains unknown, but the first reported observations of the species in this area were in Oporto (the western part of the Peninsula) and date back to 1894 (Martins, 1907). This means that the first introduction of the ant would probably have been much earlier, perhaps in the 1800s, as a result of the intense commercial shipping between the Iberian Peninsula and the Río de la Plata region, the native area of this species (Tsutsui et al., 2001).

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
New Zealand 1990 Yes No Green (1990) Accidental introduction

Risk of Introduction

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L. humile has two main dispersion processes: diffusion dispersal through budding and long-distance jump dispersion through human-mediated transport (Suarez et al., 2001). The former is the mechanism used by the ant to extend the invasion to contiguous habitats and is characterized by a low rate of spread (Suarez et al., 2001). The latter is the process responsible for its worldwide dispersion outside its natural range and may involve anything from a few to a thousand kilometres. Jump-dispersal linked to human-mediated transport is nowadays the main factor behind the expansion of the invasion to new areas. It means that, in global terms, the risk of the introduction of the species into new areas is extremely high, since preventing its accidental transport is almost impossible.

Habitat

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L. humile appears to be more successful in subtropical and Mediterranean climates than in extremely cold, arid or tropical climates (Hölldobler and Wilson, 1990; Passera, 1994). Where it has been introduced, this species is mainly found in close association with humans, with a preference for anthropogenically disturbed areas, but it also has the capacity to invade natural ecosystems around the world (Holway, 1995; Human and Gordon, 1996; Suarez et al., 2001; Gomez et al., 2003; Carpintero et al., 2005).

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial-managed
Buildings Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Natural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Hosts/Species Affected

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Nearly all of the effects of L. humile on crops or plantations are due to its mutualistic interactions with hemipterans, which are protected from their natural enemies by the ant, thereby producing a large increase in their populations and so affecting the host plant (Newell and Barber, 1913; Ness and Bronstein, 2004).

There have also been reports of the negative effect of L. humile on orange blossoms, which foraging workers attack in order to obtain nectar (Newell and Barber, 1913).

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

In native populations of L. humile, workers from different nests compete aggressively for resources. The introduced populations of the species are characterized by a lack of aggressive behaviour between workers from different nests, leading to the formation of unicolonies. These unicolonies can consist of cooperative interconnected nests ranging over thousands of kilometres, as is the case of the so-called European supercolonies (Giraud et al., 2002), with high densities of workers leading to a numerical dominance over native ant species (Holway et al., 2002a). This lack of a capacity of workers in introduced populations to distinguish between workers from other nests seems to be related to a lower level of genetic diversity compared with the native populations. This has resulted in the elimination of the mechanisms required for workers to recognize workers from a different nest (Tsutsui et al., 2000).

Reproductive Biology

The only caste of this species that can lay eggs is the queen, as workers are completely sterile (Holway et al., 2002a), although they can rear the brood into sexuals in de-queened colonies (Keller et al., 1989). L. humile can produce three different types of progeny: workers, males and queens, and has three types of immature forms: the egg, the larvae and the pupae. It has an intranidal mating system, which means that the species does not have mating flights and mating is carried out in the nest (Passera, 1994).

Once virgin queens are fertilized, workers cut off their wings. This allows ovarian maturation and consequent production of eggs (Passera and Aron, 1993). Fertilized eggs (also known as diploid eggs) will develop into females (workers and queens), and the non-fertilized ones (also known as haploid eggs) will develop into males.

Physiology and Phenology
 
Both brood development times and the queen’s oviposition rate are greatly affected by temperature (Newell and Barber, 1913; Benois, 1973; Abril et al., 2008). Development times are shorter in high temperature conditions and vice versa (Newell and Barber, 1913; Benois, 1973), while the queen’s oviposition rates are maximal at 28ºC under experimental conditions and decrease at higher and lower temperatures (Abril et al., 2008).

Queens lay eggs during most of the year except in winter, due to a physiological rest period. There are two periods during the remainder of the year when egg laying is at its maximum: one in spring and the other, to a lesser extent, in autumn (Benois, 1973). In June and July there is a strong demographic increase in males and workers, respectively, and virgin queens appear in the nest from June to August (Benois, 1973).

Nutrition

L. humile is an omnivorous species. Its diet is basically composed of liquid food (Markin, 1970b; Abril et al., 2007), but it also contains a small percentage of solid food, mainly insects (Abril et al., 2007). The collection of liquid food is related to the feeding of males and workers which feed mainly on carbohydrates, the principal nutrient of the liquid food collected. This, for the most part, consists of honeydew or nectar. The collection of solid food is linked to the feeding of larvae and queens. Due to its high protein content, this is the main nutrient consumed by these individuals for their development and egg-laying, respectively (Markin, 1970a; Abril et al., 2007).

Associations
 
L. humile tends to establish mutualistic interactions with hemipterans for the honeydew they produce. This relationship can produce damage in the host plant by affecting its growth and production, and this is the reason why the species is also considered a serious danger to crops (Ness and Bronstein, 2004).

Environmental Requirements
 
The species has a strong preference for temperate climes with a degree of humidity. It has been reported that dry as well as highly humid environments can limit its expansion (Espadaler and Gomez, 2003; Krushelnycky et al., 2005). Temperature is also a limiting factor. Foraging activity ceases at around 40-44ºC (maximum temperature) and 5ºC (minimum temperature), with maximum foraging occurring at 34ºC (Holway, 2002b; Abril et al., 2007).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C

Notes on Natural Enemies

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There are no recorded cases of natural enemies of L. humile in its introduced range (Orr et al., 2001).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic) 

The formation of new colonies occurs only by budding, the natural dispersion through diffusion of this species. This process takes place when inseminated queens leave their nests on foot, accompanied by a group of workers to form a new colony in the vicinity (Bourke and Franks, 1995).
 
Vector Transmission (Biotic)

In Doñana National Park, Spain, dispersal by means of black kites (Milvus migrans), which nest in infected trees, has been reported (Carpintero et al., 2005).

Accidental Introduction

The dispersion of L. humile worldwide is produced via accidental transportation by means of human commercial activities. This means of dispersion is commonly known as long-distance jump dispersion (Suarez et al., 2001) and allows dispersion from a few to thousands of kilometres. There is also evidence of accidental dispersion of small fragments of colonies by means of road vehicles (Hee et al., 2000).

Intentional Introduction

There are no recorded instances of the intentional introduction of L. humile.

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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L. humile produces negative economic effects when invading crops and plantations because of its mutualistic interactions with hemipterans, which can affect the growth and production of the host plant (Buckley, 1987; Ness and Bronstein, 2004).

There is also evidence of its capacity to transfer the pathogenic fungus Phytophthora citricola to Persea americana plantations, with a resulting serious economic impact (El-Hamalawi and Menge, 1996).

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Biodiversity 

One of the most documented effects of L. humile invasion is the displacement through competition of almost all native ant species (Way et. al, 1997; Kennedy, 1998; Carpintero et al., 2005). There is also evidence of its effect on native arthropod populations through both competition and depredation (Cole et al., 1992; Bolger et al., 2000). This impact on both native arthropod fauna and native ant fauna affects several ecological processes, such as the disruption of ant-plant mutualisms like seed dispersal (Bond and Slingsby, 1984; Gómez and Oliveras 2003) or pollination (Visser et al., 1996; Blancafort and Gómez, 2005). The alteration of native arthropod communities also causes changes in the ecosystem’s trophic structure, resulting in negative impacts, even on native vertebrate populations (Suarez et al., 2000; Roca, 2004; Gómez and Espadaler, 2005).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Charadrius alexandrinus nivosusUSA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesCalifornia; Oregon; WashingtonPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2007
Desmocerus californicus dimorphus (valley elderberry longhorn beetle)USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesCaliforniaPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012
Perognathus longimembris pacificus (Pacific pocket mouse)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesCaliforniaEcosystem change / habitat alteration; PredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010b
Polioptila californica californica (coastal California gnatcatcher)USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesCaliforniaPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010a
Schiedea haleakalensis (Haleakala schiedea)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiEcosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011
Silene lanceolata (Kauai catchfly)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiHerbivory/grazing/browsingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010c
Sterna antillarum browni (California least tern)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesCaliforniaPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2006

Social Impact

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There is no relevant information on any negative social impact of this ant species.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Conflict
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Infrastructure damage
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts forestry
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
  • Predation
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult/costly to control

Detection and Inspection

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The easiest way to detect L. humile on the crop is by searching for foraging workers on the trunk or the stem of the plant, because they associate closely with honeydew-producing hemipterans while searching out honeydew.

The Pacific Invasive Ant Key (PIAKey) manual Pacific Invasive Ants Taxonomy Workshop Manual can both be used in identifying invasive ants in the Pacific region.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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L. humile is easily distinguishable from other species of ants by its extremely fast movements and high number of recruitment workers. The workers, when crushed between the fingers, give off no perceptible odour, and this characteristic allows the species to be distinguished from other similar ants like Iridomirmex analis, as well as from other similar ant species from the genus Tapinoma.

Prevention and Control

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Prevention

Preventing the introduction of L. humile into new areas is almost impossible due to the chances of it being accidentally transported by humans. However, as the introduction of this pest species to new areas is principally human-assisted, given the poor dispersion achieved by means of budding, its expansion range could be reduced by controlling new foci (Moody and Mack, 1988). To that end, the treatment by means of insecticides of material vulnerable to infection, such as mulch, soil, parts of plants or debris prior to transport, could achieve a great deal in preventing the expansion of the species into new areas (Costa et al., 2001).
 
For preventing invasions of L. humile in urban and agricultural areas, limiting access to water, food and nesting sites, in combination with the use of baits or chemical treatments, is one of the approaches used (Soeprono and Rust, 2004).

Eradication

Although eradication of L. humile is almost impossible in areas where the invasion is quite severe and extensive, the successful eradication of the species by using baits has been reported in small infestations in urban and natural environments in New Zealand (Harris, 2002). There is also evidence of its eradication in Bunbury, Western Australia (Davis et al., 1998).

Containment/Zoning

Effective containment requires continuous monitoring and re-treatment. Although institutions can bear the cost of this kind of treatment in certain areas, such as croplands or some natural environments, maintaining this level of vigilance in neighbourhoods where land is in private ownership is extremely difficult (Silverman and Brightwell, 2008).

Control

Cultural control and sanitary measures

There are some examples of cultural control approaches, such as the application of powder barriers (Rust and Knight, 1990), the use of bands with sticky or repellent materials on vines or trees (Phillips et al., 1987; Shorey et al., 1992; 1996) and the restriction of access to water and nesting sites (Meissner and Silverman, 2003; Menke and Holway, 2006; Silverman et al., 2006), but none have led to successful control of the ant in the areas where they have been applied.

Biological control

Biological control of L. humile is difficult due to the species’ lack of natural enemies in areas where it has been introduced (Orr et al., 2001). However, it has been suggested that its unicoloniality could be disrupted by increasing its intra-specific aggression through the alteration of hydrocarbon-based recognition cues (Silverman and Liang, 2001) or as a result of an increase in its genetic diversity through the introduction of males from genetically diverse populations (Suarez et al., 1999).

Chemical control

Chemical applications take the form of barrier treatments with contact-residual insecticides and baits. They are used to prevent or limit the species’ access to structures or areas (Rust, 2001). They are also applied around or near the base of plants to prevent the workers’ access to honeydew-producing hemipterans. Some important limitations of these approaches are: they only kill above-ground ant foragers and do not affect larvae and queens; application is difficult; there is a lack of residual activity; and broad-spectrum insecticides have potential non-target and environmental side effects (Soeprono and Rust, 2004), which can lead to secondary infestations (Smith et al., 1995).

Baits can be used to control L. humile invasions by using workers as a vehicle for transmitting toxins through tropholaxis to larvae and queens. Baits consist of an active toxic ingredient and an attractant in the form of a food resource (Rust, 2001). This method has resulted in significant reductions in L. humile numbers in infected areas (Forschler, 1997; Vega and Rust, 2003). One example of this is the reduction of the invasion in the Haleakala National Park, Hawaii, by using granular baits (Krushelnycky et al., 2004). However, this method is only successful temporarily, as suspension of the treatment leads to regeneration of the ant population and renewed expansion of the invasion (Krushelnycky et al., 2004).

IPM Progammes

Integrated pest management of L. humile requires treatment of both the ant’s nesting habitat and its food supply (Silverman and Brightwell, 2008).

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29/04/08 Original text by:

Crisanto Gómez, Universitat de Girona, Dept Ciències Ambientals, Facultat de Ciències, Campus de Montilivi7071- Girona, Spain

Silvia Abril, Universitat de Girona, Dept Ciències Ambientals, Facultat de Ciències7071- Girona, Spain

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