Carbohydrate supply limits invasion of natural communities by Argentine ants Academic Article uri icon


  • The ability of species to invade new habitats is often limited by various biotic and physical factors or interactions between the two. Invasive ants, frequently associated with human activities, flourish in disturbed urban and agricultural environments. However, their ability to invade and establish in natural habitats is more variable. This is particularly so for the invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile). While biotic resistance and low soil moisture limits their invasion of natural habitats in some instances, the effect of food availability has been poorly explored. We conducted field experiments to determine if resource availability limits the spread and persistence of Argentine ants in remnant natural forest in North Carolina. Replicated transects paired with and without sucrose solution feeding stations were run from invaded urban edges into forest remnants and compared over time using baits and direct counts at feeding stations. Repeated under different timing regimes in 2006 and 2007, access to sucrose increased local Argentine ant abundances (1.6-2.5 fold) and facilitated their progression into the forest up to 73 +/- 21% of 50-m transects. Resource removal caused an expected decrease in Argentine ant densities in 2006, in conjunction with their retreat to the urban/forest boundary. However, in 2007, Argentine ant numbers unexpectedly continued to increase in the absence of sugar stations, possibly through access to alternative resources or conditions not available the previous year such as honeydew-excreting Hemiptera. Our results showed that supplementing carbohydrate supply facilitates invasion of natural habitat by Argentine ants. This is particularly evident where Argentine ants continued to thrive following sugar station removal.

publication date

  • August 2009