The dangers of exotic ants

Most people probably know that imported birds and mammals are often illegal, require licences, and can wreak havoc in the wrong ecosystem.

By Stephen Ausmus - http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/dec04/k11622-1.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10112924
Fire ants are also a damaging exotic species in Australia. By Stephen Ausmus – http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/dec04/k11622-1.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10112924

But did you know that the dangers extend to insects?

Last month a huge stash of exotic ants was seized from a home in Canberra, Australia, after being listed for sale on the Gumtree website. Eight species were seized, including multiple breeding colonies. One species was the Tetraponera rufonigra, known to cause anaphylaxis. The species is the leading cause of anaphylaxis in Thailand.

In large numbers, which these queens and colonies are capable of building up to quickly, exotic ants can be extremely harmful in the wild. They are often aggressive, they damage crops, and compete with local species for space and resources.

By Shivsharan Trasi - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58262587The Tetraponera rufonigra is native to Asia and Africa, and hunt other small insects for their prey. Australia, with its rich insect life, is a veritable feast for them, should they get loose. The species generally live in holes in trees, which they excavate for themselves, thus also damaging Australian native plant species.

The Canberra property has been treated to remove any ants which may have escaped their enclosures, so hopefully in this case the risk is minimal.

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