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A case study of human exacerbation of the invasive species problem: transport and establishment of polygyne fire ants in Tallahassee, Florida, USA

King, Joshua R., Tschinkel, Walter R., Ross, Kenneth G.
Biological invasions 2009 v.11 no.2 pp. 373-377
Solenopsis invicta, fire ants, polygyny, insect colonies, invasive species, ecological invasion, population distribution, anthropogenic activities, transportation, roadside soils, roads, Florida
Understanding how exotic invasive species are spread is fundamental for ecology and conservation biology. Human transport has become one of the primary modes of dispersal for exotic species. We examined how the multiple queen, or polygyne, social form of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta is spread along roadsides in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. We then determined the likely source of this expanding population, which was a central soil depot. A survey of road maintenance practices in counties of several southeastern states and Texas revealed that the use of a central soil depot is a common practice. Road maintenance therefore may be the primary source for the establishment of new polygyne fire ant populations in this region and elsewhere. Control efforts focused on the soil depots will help to limit further spread of polygyne fire ants and perhaps other invasive organisms, particularly invasive weeds.