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   Myrmica rubra (insect)
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    Taxonomic name: Myrmica rubra (Linnaeus, 1758)
    Synonyms: Atta rubra (Linnaeus), Formica (Myrmecia) rubra (Linnaeus), Formica (Myrmica) rubra (Linnaeus), Formica rubra (Linnaeus), Manica rubra (Linnaeus), Myrmica laevinodis (Nylander), Myrmica laevinodis var. bruesi (Weber), Myrmica levinodis (Dalla Torre), Myrmica longiscapus (Curtis), Myrmica rubra laevinodis (Nylander), Myrmica rubra r. champlaini (Forel), Myrmica rubra st. laevinodis (Nylander)
    Common names: European fire ant (English), European imported fire ant (English-USA), Kiiro-kushike-ari (Japanese)
    Organism type: insect
    Myrmica rubra, commonly known as the European fire ant, is an aggressive ant species which has been introduced from its native Eurasia to eastern North America, where it appears able to reach sizeable densities. It has a painful sting, and also impacts on native ants and other invertebrates, and reptiles.
    Description
    Size: monomorphic. Total length of workers about 4–5.5mm. Colour: body colour yellow to yellowish brown and workers in the field are clearly yellowish (Japan) or reddish brown (North America). Surface sculpture: head and mesosoma are heavily sculptured, the gaster is smooth and shining; unraised rugae occur on the posterodorsal portion of the mesonotum. General description of genus: body cuticle thick and with an armoured appearance; usually the cuticle strongly sculptured. Psammophore absent. Clypeus with longitudinal rugulae interrupted by posterior border of clypeus and not continuous with rugulae of rest of head. Antenna 12-segmented; scape often curved or bent at base; funniculus enlarged apically forming an indistinct 3- or 4-segment club. Promesonotal suture absent. Metanotal impression weak to distinct. Propodeum with spines. Petiole with a short anterior peduncle and an anteroventral tooth or process. Tibial spurs on mid- and hind- legs finely pectinate. (Landcare Research, 2006).

    Please see AntWeb: Myrmica rubra for more images and assistance with identification. The AntWeb image comparison tool lets you compare images of ants at the subfamily, genus, species or specimen level. You may also specify which types of images you would like to compare: head, profile, dorsal, or label.
    There are several native species of Myrmica in New England, and distinguishing them from M. rubra can be difficult (Landcare Research, 2006).

    Occurs in:
    ruderal/disturbed, urban areas
    Habitat description
    In Finland it is frequently found in gardens and agricultural meadows and can be extremely abundant. It is rare inside larger forests (Saaristo, 1995; from Landcare Research, 2006). Similarly, in its introduced range in the US, the ant favours disturbed open grassy areas, forest edges, and residential landscapes. In Japan, this species is rare and nests in the soil of grasslands in lowland areas (Landcare Research 2006).
    General impacts
    For a summary of the general impacts of invasive ants, such as their affect on mutualistic relations, the competitive pressure they impose on native ants and the effect they may have on vulnerable ecosystems please read this document: invasive ants impacts

    Myrmica rubra is an aggressive ant species which has a painful sting. It has become a significant pest in many parts of its introduced range in Maine, USA. Nest densities can reach 4/m2, and there are impacts on people, pets, native ants, other invertebrates and reptiles (Landcare Research, 2006; Gammans et al. 2006). M. rubra appears to establish in sizeable colonies in its introduced range, in disturbed and natural areas around residences and commercial buildings. It aggressively defends its territory as well as dominating native species. (USDA-APHIS, 2003).

    Uses
    Butterflies of the highly endangered genus Maculinea are parasites of Myrmica ants. A recent study by Anton et al (2008) indicates that Maculinea nausithous is limited by the density of its host ant, M. rubra. They suggest that habitat management to increase densities of this endangered butterfly should focus on the optimization of habitats that enable high densities of M. rubra.
    Notes
    Sting: M. rubra sometimes nests in lawns and gardens and will readily sting humans, pets and livestock. Schmidt (see Landcare Research, 2006) compared the stings of Pogonomyrmex and M. rubra. M. rubra stings produce mini-versions of the reactions to Pogonomyrmex, which typically hurts for 4–8 hours, produces a deep pain that feels like the “tearing of muscles or tendons”, and comes in waves. The venom also produces localized sweating at the sting site, erection of the hairs around the sting site, and a pain or tenderness in axillary or groin lymph nodes. Pogonomyrmex venom is the most lethal known arthropod venom, with an LD50 in mice of about 190 micrograms/kg. The lethality of M. rubra venom is unknown, but is also likely to be high (Landcare Research, 2006).

    A light dose of carbon dioxide can be used as a safe method of anaesthesia of ants in laboratory studies (Wardlaw, 1995). Also please see Weir, 1957.

    Geographical range
    Native range: Area spanning from the United Kingdom to central Asia, and from Scandinavia to the Black Sea. Although few records were found Russia and China (see map of distribution) it is likely to be widespread in temperate regions (Landcare Research, 2006).
    Known introduced range: North-east United States and Quebec, Canada (Creighton 1950; in Landcare Research, 2006).
    Introduction pathways to new locations
    Horticulture: Myrmica rubra can be dispersed via the movement of infested potted plants, mulch and fill (Landcare Research, 2006).


    Local dispersal methods
    Horticulture (local): Myrmica rubra can be dispersed via the movement of infested potted plants, mulch and fill (Landcare Research, 2006).
    Management information
    Preventative measures: The Pacific Ant Prevention Programme is a proposal prepared for the Pacific Plant Protection Organisation and Regional Technical Meeting for Plant Protection. This plan aims to prevent the red imported fire ant and other invasive ant species from establishing within or spreading between countries in the Pacific.

    Chemical: Myrmica rubra can be controlled by tracking foragers back to the nest and eliminating the colony by direct treatment. Foragers of this sugar-loving ant quickly discover and recruit to vials baited with small pieces of surgical gauze dipped in 30–50% sucrose solution. Preliminary trials using low concentrations of boric acid (1% and less) in sucrose bait show promise for species control, and foragers will readily pick up baited formulations of both Extinguish®, a baited formulation of methoprene, and Amdro®, so strategies for Solenopsis invicta may be effective against this species (see Landcare Research, 2006). Research has shown that the use of pheromones may assist in attracting M. rubra to bait stations ( Gammans et al. 2006).

    Stanley, 2004 provides comprehensive information about the range of baits available for ant control and eradication. Groden and Stack, 2003 provide information on managing M. rubra in Maine, as does USEPA, 2003.

    Nutrition
    Myrmica rubra are generalist scavengers and predators. Workers also feed on honeydew of Homoptera and exudates of plants, and tend aphids. Workers forage around the clock from early June to September on Mount Desert Island, Maine. Throughout the autumn months (September to early November) there was a significant sigmoidal relationship between temperature and foraging. Foraging activity increased with temperature from about 6°C to 13–14°C. Above these temperatures, foraging did not appear to increase in response to air temperature (Landcare Research, 2006).
    Lifecycle stages
    Myrmica rubra is "normally polygynous with some 1000 workers, but may develop large polydomous colonies covering up to 2 m2 and consisting of 100s of queens and over 10 000 workers (Saaristo, 1995). Unrelated queens have been found cohabiting (Pearson, 1983). Densities of M. rubra nests can be as high as 4 per m2, with more than 5200 workers and 39 queens per nest (Drummond and Garnas www57). Artificial nesting substrates set out in Maine were readily used and were repeatedly vacated and recolonised, suggesting colony movement is high, or that M. rubra’s large polydomous colonies are able to relocate nests in response to shifting optimal conditions for brood production on a short temporal scale (Garnas et al. www57). In Poland, mating swarms were present from August until mid-October (Woyciechowski, 1992)" (from Landcare Research, 2006).
    Studies on populations of M. rubra on Mount Desert Island (Maine, USA) have suggested an approach towards supercolonialism ( Bell et al. 2002).
    Compiled by: National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
    Last Modified: Tuesday, 29 September 2009


ISSG Landcare Research NBII IUCN University of Auckland