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An invasion of polygyne fire ants decimates native ants and disrupts arthropod community.
By Porter, S.D. and D. Savignano.
Ecology 71(6): 2095-2106., 1990
Cite: 1379269 with citation markup [cite:1379269]
Full Text

Porter, S.D. and D. Savignano. 1990. An invasion of polygyne fire ants decimates native ants and disrupts arthropod community. Ecology 71(6): 2095-2106.


The fire ant Solenopsis invicta Buren invaded southeastern United States from South America >50 yr ago. Urban and agricultural consequences of this invasion are well documented; however, ecological effects are still poorly understood. Increasing frequencies of polygyne or multiple—queen fire ants in Texas and other areas of the Southeast are disturbing because nest densities of this new form are often ten times as great as those of the more familiar monogyne form. We studied the ecological impacts of a polygyne fire ant invasion on ants and other surface—active arthropods at a field station in central Texas. Arthropod abundance and species richness were assessed using a combination of baits, pitfall traps, and litter samples.

This invasion decimated the indigenous ant fauna. Competitive replacement appears to be the primary mechanism behind this effect. Species richness of ants in infested areas dropped by 70%, while the total number of native individuals dropped by 90%. Of 35 species of ants collected in this study, 23 were either significantly less common or absent from infested sites; only S. invicta was more common at infested sites. The most dramatic effect of the invasion was a 10—30 fold increase in the total number of ants at infested sites–of which >99% were the imported fire ant S. invicta.

The impact of this invasion on other surface—active arthropods was less severe, but still substantial. The abundance of isopods, erythraeid mites, and tumblebug scarabs declined significantly, while the abundance of ground crickets, a brachypterous roach, and a symbiotic scarab increased significantly. Overall, the species richness of non—ant arthropods was 30% lower in infested sites, and individual numbers were 75% lower. Total arthropod species richness (including ants) was 40% less at infested sites. These data indicate that polygyne fire ants pose a substantial threat to the biodiversity of native arthropod communities.