Ant invasion: How pets grow to be pests

The European hearth ant, Myrmica rubra, is without doubt one of the invasive ant species in Ontario. They’re identified for his or her painful sting. Credit score: Jon Sanders, Creator offered

After I was a teen, I volunteered within the rainforest exhibit at an aquarium. A couple of occasions every week, we would get a cellphone name from somebody trying to donate a pet that they may not take care of. Largely turtles and frogs. The occasional parrot. As soon as, a retired dancer needed to discover a new dwelling for 2 boa constrictors that had been a part of her act.

However the aquarium couldn’t take all of the animals it was supplied, and I typically questioned what occurred to all these undesirable pets. Many doubtless discovered new properties, however some had been in all probability launched into native parks or ponds, sadly.

A current research by researchers on the College of Lausanne warns that the pet commerce is contributing to the unfold of invasive species across the globe. The research, printed within the Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences (PNAS), discovered that traded pets are sometimes invasive species, which means they set up pure populations in new locations.

These pets are usually not simply bigger animals which might be generally launched within the wild once they outgrow their cages, just like the Burmese pythons which have invaded the Florida Everglades, however even a comparatively new and apartment-friendly pet: ants.

Ants are in style pets

I research ants, which makes me a myrmecologist, and I generally preserve dwell ant colonies for analysis functions in my lab. At one level, I had practically 100 dwell ant colonies for a research evaluating invasive and native ants as seed dispersers.

Ant invasion: How pets become pests
A queen ant and others in an ant farm starter take a look at tube. Credit score: Shutterstock

I accumulate wild ant queens and employees from a organic station close to me and home them in take a look at tubes, which I wrap in tin foil and partially fill with moist cotton. This retains the take a look at tubes moist and darkish, and normally the queen and her employees will transfer proper in.

As a result of ants are simple to take care of and downright fascinating to observe, they’re rising quickly in recognition as pets. In keeping with the PNAS research, at the very least 65 web sites now promote and ship ants everywhere in the world.

As a myrmecologist, I’m thrilled that others are discovering pleasure in ants. Ants have complicated social lives, play essential roles in ecosystems and are able to really exceptional issues.

Some ants be a part of their our bodies collectively into floating rafts or bridges to cross water or different obstacles. Others are intelligent sufficient to determine and bear in mind probably the most direct route dwelling.

One of many ant species that I research creates monumental gardens of its host crops within the Amazon rain forest by poisoning all different crops with formic acid. There are effectively over 15,000 species of ants on Earth, they usually dwell on each continent besides Antarctica. Ants have even been to area.

I really like ants, so I can not blame individuals for wanting ants as pets.

Ants have complicated social behaviours and may work collectively to unravel issues, together with constructing a bridge to switch meals throughout an open area.

Pet ants are sometimes invasive species

However some ant species are additionally very severe pests.

5 ant species—Argentine ants, crimson imported hearth ants, yellow loopy ants, little hearth ants and big-headed ants—are among the many prime 100 worst invasive species on this planet as a result of they’ll have devastating impacts on native ecosystems. Invasive ants typically out-compete native bugs, hurt ground- and burrow-nesting birds and assist unfold different pest species.

The PNAS research discovered 520 ant species are traded as pets, and of these, 57 species (or 11 p.c) are identified to be invasive, in comparison with simply 1.7 p.c of ants general. Curiously, the pet commerce in ants is new sufficient that these 57 invasive ant species had been in all probability not launched to new components of the world by pet homeowners.

As an alternative, the brand new analysis emphasizes that the identical traits that make animals good pets typically make animals good invaders. For instance, invasive ant species generally have colonies with multiple queen, and ant species with a number of queens are additionally extra commercially profitable pets.

As a result of a few of the ants I research in my lab are invasive species, my lab members and I take further care to verify our ants don’t escape. We put the ants’ take a look at tube nests in plastic Tupperware containers that we coat with a particular substance known as Fluon, a milky white resin that makes the partitions of the containers so easy that ants cannot climb up them. Then we put the containers on cabinets which have legs that sit in little bowls of mineral oil. If a wayward ant occurs to make a run for it, she’ll get caught within the oil earlier than she will get to the door.

However individuals preserving ants or different invasive animals as pets will not be as cautious.

Happily, there may be a simple repair: perform a little homework when searching for a brand new pet, and think about selecting a species that’s native to your space.

Ant fanatics may even accumulate a colony domestically. Ants are so various and plentiful that there’s good probability that you will discover an fascinating and appropriate native ant species close to you, wherever you’re on this planet. Simply bear in mind it’s a must to discover a queen to maintain the colony going. Then, sit again and indulge your love of ants.

Hyperlink discovered between invasive species and business success in international pet commerce

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