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   Wasmannia auropunctata (insect)  français     
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         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 with economic, environmental and/or social impacts, entering and establishing in or spreading between (or within) countries of the Pacific Region.

    A detailed pest risk assessment for the eight species ranked as having the highest potential risk to New Zealand was prepared as part of 'The invasive ant risk assessment project', Harris et al. 2005., for Biosecurity New Zealand by Landcare Research. The Invasive ant risk assessment for Wasmannia auropunctata can be viewed at Wasmannia auropunctata risk assessment. Please see Wasmannia auropunctata information sheet for more information on biology, distribution, pest status and control technologies.

    Integrated management: The potential of invasive ants to reach high densities is greater in ecosystems which have been utilised or modified by humans. For example the little fire ant is a greater problem in forests and habitats in its native range in South America that have been over-exploited by humans (Armbrecht and Ulloa-Chacón 2003). In south Colombia and Brazil, respectively, sugarcane monocultures and cocoa farms have been linked with high abundances of the little fire ant. Similarily, the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) reaches locally high densities in argricultural systems, particularly citrus orchards, which host honey-dew producing Homoptera (Armbrecht and Ulloa-Chacón 2003; Holway et al. 2002). This implies that improved land management (including improving land use efficiency and reducing the practice of monoculture) and a reduction in primary production would reduce numbers of invasive ants, alleviate the problems associated with high densities of invasive ants and reduce the potential sources from new infestations.

    Chemical: Eradication programmes are expected to be more successful on small islands or in isolated areas where distributions are less than a few dozen hectares. In the Galapagos Archipelago, it may be impossible to eradicate W. auropunctata from the large islands where it is established. However it has been successfully eradicated from Santa Fe and has the potential to be eradicated from other small islands such as Marchena. The control of the little fire ant on these islands has been by non-selective ant poisons, fire, or by clearing vegetation (Roque-Albelo and Causton 1999, Roque-Albelo and Causton 1999).

    Please follow this link for more detailed information on the management of Wasmannia auropunctata compiled by the ISSG. français     

         Location Specific Management Information
    Cauca River Valley
    Armbrecht and Ulloa-Chacón (2003) speculate that increased the linked phenomena of high W. auropunctata density and decreased ant diversity might be related to the intense management of forests in south Colombia, where the level of industrialised sugar cane monocultures is increasing. The improvement of land use in parts of its native range could prevent population explosions of the ant and reduce the likelihood of spread to new locations.
    French Polynesia
    There is a strong need on Pacific islands such as these for: (1) improving border control, and (2) reducing the time between the introduction of an invasive species and the first report of invasion. The latter may be achieved by improving public education of the dangers involved in the spread of potentially invasive species. Management of W. auropunctata (quoted as being one of the most noxious ant species of tropical islands), began this year (2005) between the French Polynesian and New Caledonian French overseas territories.
    Galapagos Islands
    The little fire ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) was likely to have been transported between the large islands in the Galapagos archipelago on plants and in soil, and between the small islands on camping provisions and equipment. The installation of an inspection and quarantine system both in the Archipelago and on the continent is urgently required, in addition to complementary projects, such as decreasing the dependence on imported products by increasing local agricultural production, an ecological monitoring system to detect new incursions, and an intensive educational campaign aimed at the islanders. Control programs are also needed for the aggressive introduced insects in the Galapagos Islands such as the biting fly and the little fire ant.
    The likelihood of eliminating the little fire ant from the archipelago without seriously affecting the indigenous (native and endemic) invertebrate fauna is low, most notably on the larger islands where the little fire ant is now distributed over hundreds of hectares. Control of the little fire ant has hitherto been by non-selective ant poisons, fire, or by clearing vegetation. Eradication programs are expected to be more successful on the smaller islands or in isolated areas where distributions are less than a few dozen hectares. W. auropunctata has been successfully eradicated from Santa Fe and may be eradicated in the future from other smaller islands such as Marchena.
    Amdro (hydramethylnon; in bait stations), Esteem (pyriproxyfen; broadcast bait), and Conserve (spinosad; ground spray) were tested for their efficacy against W. auropunctata in a rambutan, Nephelium lappaceum L. and mangosteen, Garcinia mangostana L., orchard. Significant reductions in ant numbers were observed after 13 weeks of treatement with Amdro and Esteem (47.1 and 92.5% respectively). Conserve did not cause a reduction in ant numbers. No plots acheived 100% reduction. Psuedococcid scale insects were signficantly lower in Amdro and Esteem treatment plots compared with controls. Many W. auropunctata were found nesting in protected sites in the orchard trees, which may have compromised the ground-based control methods. Future studies should focus on the foraging behavior of W. auropunctata supercolonies in orchards and other agricultural environments so that bait stations or other baiting strategies can be deployed most effectively. Granule size may be an important factor in bait effectiveness (Souza et al., 2006).
    Hawaii (Hawai‘i) Is.
    The little fire ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) could pose significant problems to the Hawaiian economy, health and environment if it is allowed to spread unabated. If abatement efforts are to succeed, we must emphasize public outreach and recruit help from the general public in order to map the distribution of the ant on a very fine scale (Source: Bishop Museum).
    Marchena Is.
    In 1992 the Galàpagos National Park Service (GNPS) and the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) initiated a control programme to eradicate the little fire ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) (areas infested 0.5 ha) from Marchena using the same methodology used to eradicate the ant from Sante Fe Island. The eradictaion programme was only partially successful. The programme was suspended in 1996 due to lack of funds. The area infested at this time was 1.5 ha. By 1998 the infested area had risen to 17 ha (Roque-Albelo et al. 2000 in Causton et al. 2005). An intensive program was initiated in 2001 to eradicate the W. Auropunctata from on Marchena Island.

    Linear transects, approximately 10 m apart, were cut through the vegetation of the infested area and a buffer zone of 6 ha. Amdro® (Hydramethylnon) was applied manually up to three times in the treatment area at three month intervals between March and October 2001. To date, five follow-up monitoring surveys have placed sticks painted with peanut butter in a grid 3-4 m apart. Two small populations (0.1% of the area originally occupied by W. Auropunctata) were detected in April and October 2002 and were subsequently treated with Amdro®. No W. Auropunctata ants were found in May 2003 and April 2004. Five nocturnal surveys carried out in the immediate area of introduction of W. Auropunctata did not detect any individuals. Monitoring surveys will continue for an additional two years to ensure eradication of any remaining populations and verify the success of this program (Causton et al. 2005).

    New Caledonia (Nouvelle Caledonie)
    There is a strong need on Pacific islands such as these for: (1) improving border control, and (2) reducing the time between the introduction of an invasive species and the first report of invasion. The latter may be achieved by improving public education of the dangers involved in the spread of potentially invasive species. Management of W. auropunctata (quoted as being one of the most noxious ant species of tropical islands), began this year (2005) between the French Polynesian and New Caledonian French overseas territories.
    Santa Cruz Is. (Ecuador)
    The insect juvenile hormone analog, methoprene was used to control W.auropunctata on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos. Results indicated that it had an important effect on brood development and queen fecundity. However treatment had no significant effect on worker population 6 weeks after treatment, and after three months with no further treatment, popula-tions reductions only reached 50 to 75% (Ulloa-Chacón & Cherix, 1994 in Wetterer & Porter, 2003).
    Te Tavake
    A case-study of little fire ant control in Tahiti on a very small urban infested area (0.3 ha) by a pest control company.
    In Te Tavake residence, the infested area was approximately 100m by 30m and sloping. The owners association engaged the services of a pest control company (at a cost of cost of USD 1,300). They used Propoxur first, followed by a second pass some days later to spread Amdro. Post treatment monitoring showed that all contaminated areas were cleared except for an area of about 5m x 5m within one lot (Loeve, E., pers. comm., October 2005).

    However, serious concerns have been raised about this eradication effort, especially about the use of the highly toxic Propoxur and potential waste of money. This highly toxic chemical will not kill ants in the nests (which is what is required) unless directly applied in a drench form to individual nests. It will kill the foraging ants and drive the remaining survivors underground. The subsequent use of Amdro is highly likely to have been a waste of money, as there are unlikely to have been any foragers out gathering food to take the bait back to the nest. As Amdro is relatively non toxic and with a short half life, it is unlikely to have achieved the desired result. In conclusion, Amdro is highly recommended for control of W. auropunctata, but not following the application of the knockdown chemcial Propoxur. As Amdro relies completely on the foraging activity of workers to transfer toxic bait back to the nest, the Propoxur will have removed the foragers from the ground, thereby negating any effect of the Amdro (O'Connor, S.,pers. comm., November 2005).

    In fact, a September 2006 assessment, conducted one year after the treatment, showed that while the colony had been substantially weakened, little fire ants were still present in large numbers in the contaminated areas (Loeve, E., pers. comm., September 2006). The lesson learned here is that even with localised appropriate ground treatments using toxic baits, there will invariably be some survivors. To minimise the number of survivors it is advisable to incorporate a treatment buffer zone around known infested areas. This will reduce the likelihood of previously undetected populations missing out on a toxic dose of bait. Additionally, frequent post treatment monitoring will allow timely detection of any surviving populations. High density monitoring using attractant baits at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months is strongly recommended. Any detected surviving nests should be mapped and allowed to increase in numbers to facilitate high recruitment rates to any subsequently applied toxic bait, but do not allow numbers to increase to the point where arboreal nesting commences. Unless frequent post treatment monitoring occurs, it is almost guaranteed that there will be patchy remnants of the infestation, regardless of treatment. The probability of ants surviving treatment is highly variable and depends on the product used, its application rate and method, environmental conditions, microhabitats available to the ants, and whether or not arboreal nests exist (O'Connor, S., pers. comm., November 2006).

    Experience suggests that 1m grid surveys must be conducted in order to be sure that all ants have been eradicated. In addition, it is necessary to wait up to 6 months to have an accurate assessment of success, as remnant ant populations can be very low and hard to detect (Hoffmann, B., pers. comm., October 2005). General consensus is that to be sure that eradication has been achieved in a treatment area, there should be 2 years monitoring with no ants found during that period (O'Connor, S., pers. comm., November 2006). Advice is available (in French) on Detecting and Reporting Wasmannia auropunctata from Fenua Animalia.

    Vanua Lava Is.
    Currently, officials in Vanuatu are very concerned about the prospect of this ant spreading throughout the archipelago, and are seeking international assistance in learning ant identification (L.Nimoho, pers. comm. to JKW, 2001). Exportation of agricultural products from infested islands in Vanuatu has been temporarily forbidden (Rapp 1999, Anonymous 2000) (Wetterer & Porter, 2003).
    Results of a bait preference experiment suggest the ant prefers protein (egg solids) to carbohydrates (jam) or lipids (butter).
    The travel of people and the movement of produce and furniture are likely to result in spread of the ant to new localities, suggesting the best way to prevent spread of the ant is to increase general public awareness of the ant in the region. It is hoped that the small population currently established at Kreer Heights can be eradicated using Xtinguish baits and 6-monthly surveillance for two years following bait applications to detect any re-infestations in the area. The existance of other infestations is likely and the extent of the distribution of the little fire ant in Papau New Guinea is still unknown.

         Management Resources/Links

    1. Abedrabbo, S. 1994. Control of the little fire ant, Wasmannia auropunctata, on Santa Fe Island in the Galapagos Islands. pp. 219–227 in Williams, D. F. (ed.) Exotic ants: biology, impact, and control of introduced species. Westview Press, Boulder. 332 pp.
    2. AntWeb, 2006. Wasmannia auropunctata
            Summary: AntWeb illustrates ant diversity by providing information and high quality color images of many of the approximately 10,000 known species of ants. AntWeb currently focusses on the species of the Nearctic and Malagasy biogeographic regions, and the ant genera of the world. Over time, the site is expected to grow to describe every species of ant known. AntWeb provides the following tools: Search tools, Regional Lists, In-depth information, Ant Image comparision tool PDF field guides maps on AntWeb and Google Earth and Ant genera of the world slide show.
    AntWeb is available from: [Accessed 20 April 2006]
    The species page is available from: [Accessed 2 May 2006]
    4. Commonwealth of Australia. 2006a. Threat abatement plan to reduce the impacts of tramp ants on biodiversity in Australia and its territories, Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra.
            Summary: This plan establishes a national framework to guide and coordinate Australia’s response to tramp ants, identifying the research, management, and other actions necessary to ensure the long term survival of native species and ecological communities affected by tramp ants. It identifies six national priority species as an initial, but flexible, list on which to focus attention. They are the red imported fi re ant (Solenopsis invicta), tropical fire ant (S. geminata), little fire ant (Wasmannia auropunctata), African big-headed ant (Pheidole megacephala), yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes), and Argentine ant (Linepithema humile).
    Available from: [Accessed 17 November 2009]
    6. Delabie, J. H. C. 1989. Preliminary evaluation of an alternative technique for the control of the little fire ant Wasmannia auropunctata in cacao plantations. Agrotropica 75: 75-78.
    8. Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2005. Draft Threat Abatement Plan for for Reduction in Impacts of Tramp Ants on Biodiversity in Australia and its Territories
    9. Formis: A Master Bibliography of Ant Literature. USDA, Agricultural Research Service.
    10. Fourmi de feu a Tahiti (in French)
            Summary: Webpage created to centralise information on the Wasmannia auropunctata invasion in Tahiti. Contains an assessment of the situation, images, maps, scientific documents, links and contacts.
    11. Harris, R.; Abbott, K.; Barton, K.; Berry, J.; Don, W.; Gunawardana, D.; Lester, P.; Rees, J.; Stanley, M.; Sutherland, A.; Toft, R. 2005: Invasive ant pest risk assessment project for Biosecurity New Zealand. Series of unpublished Landcare Research contract reports to Biosecurity New Zealand. BAH/35/2004-1.
            Summary: The invasive ant risk assessment project, prepared for Biosecurity New Zealand by Landcare Research, synthesises information on the ant species that occur in New Zealand (native and introduced species), and on invasive ants that pose a potential threat to New Zealand.
    There is a great deal of information in this risk assessment on invasive ant species that is of global interest, including; biology, distribution, pest status, control technologies.
    The assessment project has five sections.1) The Ants of New Zealand: information sheets on all native and introduced ants established in New Zealand 2) Preliminary invasive ant risk assessment: risk scorecard to quantify the threat to New Zealand of 75 ant species. 3) Information sheets on invasive ant threats: information sheets on all ant species scored as medium to high risk (n = 39). 4) Pest risk assessment: A detailed pest risk assessment for the eight species ranked as having the highest potential risk to New Zealand (Anoplolepis gracilipes, Lasius neglectus, Monomorium destructor, Paratrechina longicornis, Solenopsis geminata, Solenopsis richteri, Tapinoma melanocephalum, Wasmannia auropunctata) 5) Ranking of high risk species: ranking of the eight highest risk ant species in terms of the risks of entry, establishment, spread, and detrimental consequences.
    NB. The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) is considered to be the worst ant pest in the world. However, Solenopsis invicta was specifically excluded from consideration in this risk assessment as this species has already been subject to detailed consideration by Biosecurity New Zealand
    (This invasive ant pest risk assessment was funded by Biosecurity New Zealand and Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. Undertaken by Landcare Research in collaboration with Victoria University of Wellington and Otago Museum)
    Available from: [Accessed 20 May 2007]
    12. Harris, R.J. & Barker, G. (2007). Relative risk of invasive ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) establishing in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 34: 161-178.
    13. Holway, D.A., Lach, L., Suarez, A.V., Tsutsui, N.D. and Case, T.J. 2002. The Causes and Consequences of Ant Invasions, Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 33: 181-233.
    14. ISSG, compilation of email correspondence with Simon O'Connor, Jean-Yves Meyer and Eric Loeve in November 2005
    15. Lubin, Y. 1984. Changes in the native fauna of the Galápagos Islands following invasion by the little fire ant Wasmannia auropunctata. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 21: 229- 242.
    16. McGlynn, T.P. 1999. The Worldwide Transfer of Ants: Geographical Distribution and Ecological Invasions, Journal of Biogeography 26(3): 535-548.
    17. Meyer, J.-Y and Jourdan, H. Undated. Little Fire Ant in Tahiti and Miconia in New Caledonia: French connection to tackle “new” invasions in South Pacific Islands
    18. Ness, J.H and Bronstein, J.L. 2004. The Effects of Invasive Ants on Prospective ant Mutualists, Biological Invasions 6: 445-461.
    21. Roque, Albelo L., Causton, C. E. and Mieles, A. 2000. The ants of Marchena Island, twelve years after the introduction of the little fire ant, Wasmnnia auropunctata. Noticias de Galápagos.
    22. Sarnat, E. M. (December 4, 2008) PIAkey: Identification guide to ants of the Pacific Islands, Edition 2.0, Lucid v. 3.4. USDA/APHIS/PPQ Center for Plant Health Science and Technology and University of California — Davis.
            Summary: PIAkey (Pacific Invasive Ant key) is an electronic guide designed to assist users identify invasive ant species commonly encountered in the Pacific Island region. The guide covers four subfamilies, 20 genera and 44 species.
    The primary tool offered by PIAkey is an interactive key designed using Lucid3 software. In addition to being fully illustrated, the Lucid key allows users to enter at multiple character points, skip unknown characters, and find the most efficient path for identifying the available taxa. Each species is linked to its own web page. These species pages, or factsheets, are linked to an illustrated glossary of morphological terms, and include the following seven sections: 1) Overview of the species; 2) Diagnostic chart illustrating a unique combination of identification characters; 3) Comparison chart illustrating differences among species of similar appearance; 4) Video clip of the species behavior at food baits (where available); 5) Image gallery that includes original specimen images and live images (where available); 6) Nomenclature section detailing the taxonomic history of the species, and 7) Links and references section for additional literature and online resources.
    Available from: [Accessed 17 December 2008]
    23. Silberglied, R. 1972. The ‘little fire ant,’ Wasmannia auropunctata, a serious pest in the Galapagos Islands. Noticias Galapagos 19/20: 13–15.
    24. Souza, E., Follett, P.A., Price, D.K., Stacy, E.A. (2006). Field Suppression of the Invasive Ant Wasmannia auropunctata (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in a Tropical Fruit Orchard in Hawaii. Journal of Economic Entomology 101(4): 1068-1074.
    25. SPREP. 2003. Report on the 2nd Pilot of SPREP Invasive Species Training Course in Vanuatu.
    27. Ulloa Chacón, P. and Cherix, D. 1994. Perspectives on control of the little fire ant, (Wasmannia auropunctata), on the Galapagos Islands. In Williams, D. F. (ed.) Exotic ants: Biology, impact, and control of introduced species. Westview Press, Boulder, CO: 63-72.
    28. Walker, K. 2006. Electric ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) Pest and Diseases Image Library. Updated on 9/09/2006 11:06:31 AM.
            Summary: PaDIL (Pests and Diseases Image Library) is a Commonwealth Government initiative, developed and built by Museum Victoria's Online Publishing Team, with support provided by DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) and PHA (Plant Health Australia), a non-profit public company. Project partners also include Museum Victoria, the Western Australian Department of Agriculture and the Queensland University of Technology. The aim of the project is: 1) Production of high quality images showing primarily exotic targeted organisms of plant health concern to Australia. 2) Assist with plant health diagnostics in all areas, from initial to high level. 3) Capacity building for diagnostics in plant health, including linkage developments between training and research organisations. 4) Create and use educational tools for training undergraduates/postgraduates. 5) Engender public awareness about plant health concerns in Australia. PaDIL is available from :, this page is available from: [Accessed 6 October 2006]
    29. Waterhouse, D. F. 1997. The Major Invertebrate Pests and Weeds of Agriculture and Plantation Forestry in the Southern and Western Pacific. The Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research, Canberra.
            Summary: Compiled tables of the distribution and importance of invertebrate pests.

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ISSG Landcare Research NBII IUCN University of Auckland