Thursday, December 24, 2009

Foriegn Ant Visitors

  Springfield is hosting a new species of aggressive Japanese ants.  The scientific name for these invaders is Tetramorium tsuschimae. It’s unlikely any of us could tell one ant species from another, but Dr. Lloyd Morrison can.  He is an ecologist with National Park Service at Wilson’s Creek Battlefield.
   Lloyd believes the ant species are being transported in potted plants, where they nest and proliferate like – well ants.
   The newly arrived ants were first identified in St. Louis and Columbia. Dr. Morrison found them marching purposefully around in his back yard and used DNA testing to confirm his observations.  These ants are 1/10 of an inch long, polygynous (male mates with more than one female) and prefer warm weather.
   In spite of the picture, you and I won't be able to distinguish them from our native species.  Before you declare war on ants, you should know that they do a lot of good in nature or your garden, although they can certainly be annoying pests. Ants are like earthworms; they till the soil and collect insects that they turn into fertilizer. They also attack many seed-eating insects, interrupt their courting and egg-laying. Then again, Lloyd says some ants have a sympathetic relationship with aphids, protecting them from other insects. And carpenter ants are another story.
   The best solution: create a barrier, and if you find ants in all the wrong places; destroy their map-making pheromone trail.
   You can learn more about insects at www.missouriconservation.org.
Story by George Freeman adapted from the Friends of the Garden Fog Blog

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