New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2005) 29(2): 215- 219

Invasibility of native habitats by Argentine ants, Linepithema humile, in New Zealand

Research Article
Darren F. Ward 1,*
Richard J. Harris 2
  1. School of Biological Sciences, Tamaki Campus, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
  2. Landcare Research, P.O. Box 6, Nelson, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

The Argentine ant, Linepithema humile, was found established in New Zealand in 1990. During summer 2001/2002 the spread of Argentine ants from urban environments into native habitats was investigated. During an initial large-scale survey around the northern cities of Auckland and Whangarei, Argentine ants were observed at 35 of 211 sites. Eight sites in Auckland were subsequently surveyed in greater detail to determine the extent of movement by Argentine ants into native habitats. The presence of Argentine ants was determined every 10 m along a total of 28 transects into native forest, scrub and mangrove habitats. Argentine ants moved up to 20 m into forest habitats. In habitats with more open canopy (mangrove and scrub), ants moved at least 30 m and 60 m, respectively. We predict that open habitats and relatively open canopy scrub environments in northern New Zealand are likely to be vulnerable to invasion, and to experience the highest densities and the greatest impacts of Argentine ants. Our preliminary data, coupled with data from other parts of the world suggests that intact indigenous forest in New Zealand will probably not be invaded. Indigenous forests are likely to have Argentine ants only at the boundary with open habitat, but in highly fragmented landscapes the impact could be significant.