Argentine Ant Invasion Meets Resistance from Natives

The Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), from humble beginnings in South America, is now invasive on every continent and has a place on the list of 100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species. Transported around the world via human activity, this omnivorous ant impacts upon native flora and fauna and has been incredibly successful in outcompeting and displacing native ants. A recent study indicates, however, that at least one species may be ready to make a stand against the onslaught of the Argentine ant.

An Argentine ant queen and worker (Source: Alex Wild)
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Are we fuelling future invasions?

The world is fast running out of fossil fuels and with an energy crisis looming, intensive research is being carried out across the globe to find renewable alternatives. Top of the list are biofuels; fuels derived from biomass. Will the plants grown to provide this biomass behave themselves when introduced to sites outside their native range, or escape cultivation and invade the regions to which they are introduced?

Arundo donaxGiant reed, Arundo donax (credited to Steve Loya and sourced from the Lompoc Record)

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The invasive rinderpest virus is no more

For only the second time in history scientists have succeeded in eradicating a viral infectious disease. The first was over 30 years ago, when in 1979 scientists from the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that smallpox (Variola vera), an infectious human disease that had claimed the lives of hundreds of millions of people, was officially no longer an epidemic of human concern. Yesterday, Scientists from the UN reported rinderpest virus (RPV), an infectious virus causing cattle plague had been eradicated from the areas of the last known outbreaks.

Cow nose close-up
Picture courtesy of Publicenergy

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Can biocontrol bash the balsam?

After a long hot summer, many custodians of the countryside will be breathing a sigh of relief as the winter months will provide a rest bite from battling with infestations of non-native plant species.  Unfortunately, the battle is too often one sided and the weeds are winning!  Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is one of the UK’s most invasive non-native plant species and an incredibly difficult plant to control, due mainly to the inaccessible and sensitive habitats where it grows.  As a weed of riparian habitats chemical control is often not a viable option, manual control is labour intensive, and for any control effort to be successful control must take place on a catchment scale else seeds from populations upstream will colonise cleared areas during the late summer months.

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Himalayan balsam invading pasture-land in the Camel Catchment, Cornwall, UK (CABI)

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Natural Born Killers

Last month anglers at Grafham Water reservoir in Cambridgeshire, UK spotted the invasive killer shrimp Dikerogammarus villosus. The first sighting of this ferocious little beast in the UK has instigated the GB Non Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) to issue a species alert as part of the GB rapid response protocol in an attempt to contain and monitor its spread.

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The Killer Shrimp Dikerogammarus villosus (Picture courtesy of Michal Grabowski)

 

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Public perception and knotweed biocontrol

In 2010, we commenced with a controlled release of the specialist Japanese knotweed natural enemy, Aphalara itadori, in the UK.  This has been the culmination of many years of project development and intense research and is effectively a first for Europe, at least as far as weeds are concerned.

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Japanese knotweed pushing through tarmac in Buckinghamshire (CABI)

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