Ant Species Spreading: Argentine Insects Could be Threat to Environment

First Posted: Aug 14, 2013 02:05 PM EDT

Scientists have found that an alarmingly large number of Argentine ants are popping up in in unexpected numbers and actually being shipped around the world.

According to a Spanish research team, via the BBC, they warn that this species could establish colonies in new habitats and pose a threat to the environment or possibly human health.

"Due to their small size, most ants are transported involuntarily in containers and other boxes, together with soil, wood, ornamental plants and fruits etc, on ships or airplanes," said lead author Veronica Miravete, from the University of Gerona in Spain, via the news organization.

The study shows that massive transports often facilitate the dispersal of exotic ants, yet few studies have been done involving the distance and number of insects involved.

This particular researched looked at exotic ants in the United States, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Many were unreported during their journey. In fact, as many as 768 exotic an species could have been introduced around the world through various trading routes according to the study.

It's also believed that close to 600 species may have established new colonies, that researchers suggest could be dangerous to society.

"The number of ants arriving is very large and 85 percent of the introduced species are able to establish successfully," Dr Miravete said, via the BBC. "This indicates that there are many introduced species that are living around us as of yet undetected."

And this isn't the only recent study to report problems with obnoxious insects making their way in new places. According to a study by University of Texas researchers in Austin, via the journal Biological Invasions, an invasive species of ants had been popping up around the country and replacing fireants in the southern hempisphere--something that researchers also pointed out could drastically disrupt the ecosystem of the region. 

More information regarding the study can be found in the journal Royal Society Biology Letters.

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