Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Invasive garden 'super ants' take hold faster than ever in UK, new research finds

Date: July 26, 2016
Source: University of York

Three new infestations of an invasive garden ant -- known for building massive colonies of tens of thousands of insects -- have been found in the UK this year, with researchers at the University of York warning their impact on biodiversity could be huge.

First discovered in 2009, there are now a total of six known UK infestations of the Lasius neglectus which thrive in greenhouses and domestic gardens. Originating from Asia, they are likely to have arrived in the UK through the import of plants from infected areas.

The ants pose no threat to humans but non-indigenous species are capable of dramatically altering ecosystems and can drive native species to extinction. It is estimated that invasive species cost the UK £1.7billion every year through damage and management costs.

However, Dr Elva Robinson at the University of York believes many more sites are yet to be uncovered.

Since 2014, Robinson has worked alongside PhD student Phillip Buckham-Bonnett to establish the extent of the invasion in the UK. Their work has formed the basis of a Rapid Risk Assessment submitted to the government's Animal & Plant Health Agency in June.

Showing an increase in the rate of new 'super ant' discoveries, it offers recommendations for management on a national scale and will inform decision-making on UK biosecurity.

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