Interspecific displacement mechanisms by the invasive little fire ant Wasmannia auropunctata

Merav Vonshak*, Tamar Dayan, Abraham Hefetz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Competition between invasive species and native ones in the new environment was found to be significant and to affect both animal and plant species. Invasive ants are notorious for displacing local ant species through competition. Competitive displacement of native species can occur through interference and or resource competition. However, for invasive ants, little is known about the relative importance of competitive displacement. We studied competitive interactions of the little fire ant, Wasmannia auropunctata, one of the most destructive invasive ant species, with two other ant species, Monomorium subopacum and Pheidole teneriffana. We compared the species' foraging behavior and studied their aggressive interactions around food baits for the short (2 h) and long (21 days) term in the laboratory. Surprisingly we found that in short term experiments W. auropunctata had the poorest foraging abilities of the three species studied: it took the workers the longest to locate the bait and retrieve it; in addition they retrieved the lowest amount of food. When both W. auropunctata and M. subopacum were foraging the same bait, in the short term competition experiment, W. auropunctata workers did not defend the bait, and ceased foraging when encountered with competition. The long-term experiments revealed that W. auropunctata had the advantage in aggressive interactions over time; they eliminated seven of nine M. subopacum's nests while consuming some of the workers and brood. According to our laboratory studies, W. auropunctata cannot be considered an extirpator species, unless it has a substantial numerical advantage, in contrast with previous assumptions. Otherwise it may behave as an insinuator species, i. e. the workers do not initiate aggression and by staying undetected they can continue foraging adjacent to dominant species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)851-861
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Interspecific competition
  • Invasive ants
  • Invasive species
  • Wasmannia auropunctata


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