IAE staff and students were just treated to an expose' on electric ants on the Big Island, Hawaii, delivered by PhD candidate Michelle Montogomery. These fascinating little creatures switch life history as opportunity presents, becoming highly invasive under the right conditions. Australia will soon be witness to their biology and impacts as they spread through Queensland.
Electric ants, sometimes called fire ants, are one of five ants on the IUCN's hit list of worst invasive species. Their home is central and south America, but they are now widespread throughout the pacific region.
Much of what is known of them is from studies of their impacts on native species and ecosystems, with little focus on opportunities to control them. Traditional control efforts using baits and insecticidal sprays have had limited success for verious reasons and the pest continues to spread with adverse affects on the public, agriculture and forest ecosystems.
Research on species specific management techniques for Electric Ants is being conducted and effective management plans for various habitats are being developed to mitigat impacts and spread of this species.
Michelle's PhD is designed to provide the scientic underpinnings for the control effort. We wish her well in what is a challenging problem for Hawaii and Australia.