The potential impact of Darwin’s ants on the Wellington region is largely unknown, but there are both biodiversity and human nuisance concerns with an infestation. Darwin’s ants may compete with native species for habitat and food sources, and predate on native invertebrates. The nests can attain large densities in urban areas, becoming a nuisance in homes and gardens. If widely established Darwin’s ants would be difficult to control.
Darwin’s ants are small and brown and 2 to 3mm long. Queens have wings, but are poor flyers. Darwin’s ants nest in small colonies, with a slow rate of natural dispersion. The ants give off a strong odour when crushed. Darwin’s ants were first identified in New Zealand in the 1950s, and found in the Wellington region at Plimmerton in 2006. The natural dispersion rate of Darwin’s ants is slow, but they are easily accidentally transported and distributed by humans. Their natural habitat is open country but in New Zealand the nests usually occur in industrial and residential urban areas.
Darwin’s ants can be difficult to identify, with similarities to other ant species. A number of private professional pest control operators are knowledgeable in ant identification and are experienced in controlling ant infestations of all types. There are a range of commercial ant control products available on the public market, which can be purchased from hardware and garden stores. If Darwin’s ants are identified within the region, contact MAF BNZ or Greater Wellington Regional Council.
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