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Experimental introductions of fire ants changes native ant populations.
Taylor, Milton*,1, Zettler, Jennifer2, Spira, Timothy1, Allen, Craig1, 1 Clemson University, Clemson, SC2 Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, GA
ABSTRACT- We experimentally introduced polygyne populations of Solenopsis invicta into previously uninfested sites to determine the consequences of fire ant invasion on native ant species. From July 1999 to August 2001, we measured ant species richness, diversity, and abundance from five sites in South Carolina. At each site, we established one plot into which fire ants were introduced, and we paired that treatment plot with a control plot in which colonizing fire ants were baited with Amdro®. All plots consisted of a clear-cut and an intact, adjacent forest. By the end of the experiment, fire ant abundance in treatment sites increased dramatically (17-fold), but they could not be completely excluded from control sites. However, we found significant treatment effects in both clearcuts and forests for 15 species in eight genera that included Aphaenogaster, Brachyponera, Camponotus, Crematogaster, Forelius, Formica, Pheidole, and Trachymyrmex. We also found significant seasonal variation in ant abundance for 34 species and significant differences between abundance in forest and clearcut for 15 species. The introduction of this non-native ant causes significant changes in ant assemblages within just a few years after fire ant establishment. Long-term studies are needed to determine the effects of invasion by non-indigenous species on native ant species and its consequences on biological processes.
Key words: fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, native ants