The Haleakala Argentine ant project: a synthesis of past research and prospects for the future

Krushelnycky, Paul
Haines, William
Loope, Lloyd
Van Gelder, Ellen
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Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, University of Hawaii at Manoa
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1. The Haleakala Argentine Ant Project is an ongoing effort to study the ecology of the invasive Argentine ant in the park, and if possible to develop a strategy to control this destructive species. 2. Past research has demonstrated that the Argentine ant causes very significant impacts on native arthropods where it invades, threatening a large portion of the park’s biodiversity in subalpine shrubland and alpine aeolian ecosystems. 3. Patterns of spread over the past 30+ years indicate that the invasion process is influenced to a substantial degree by abiotic factors such as elevation, rainfall and temperature, and that the ant has not reached its potential range. Predictions of total range in the park suggest that it has only invaded a small fraction of available suitable habitat, confirming that this species is one of most serious threats to the park’s natural resources. 4. Numerous experiments have been conducted since 1994 in an attempt to develop a method for eradicating the Argentine ant at Haleakala using pesticidal ant baits. Thirty baits have been screened for attractiveness to ants in the park, and ten of these were tested for effectiveness of control in field plots. While some of these baits have been very effective in reducing numbers of ants, none has been able to eliminate all nests in experimental plots. 5. Research into a secondary management goal of ant population containment was initiated in 1996. By treating only expanding margins of the park’s two ant populations with an ant pesticide, rates of outward spread were substantially reduced in some areas. While this strategy was implemented from 1997 to 2004, it was ultimately discontinued after 2004 because of the difficulty and insufficient effectiveness of the technique. 6. In order to achieve the types of results necessary for eradication, the project would probably need to explore the possibility of developing a specialized bait, rather than relying on a commercially produced bait. An alternative would be to pursue approval to use Xstinguish bait, a commercial bait manufactured in New Zealand and not registered for use in the US, which has yielded good results against Argentine ants. Either route would involve significant regulatory hurdles. Because the baits ultimately used would likely be liquid or paste in form, there would also be major logistical challenges in devising methods to successfully apply the baits across the two large ant populations at Haleakala.
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Linepithema humile, Argentine ant -- Hawaii -- Maui., Haleakala National Park (Hawaii), Argentine ant -- Control -- Hawaii -- Maui.
Krushelnycky P, Haines W, Loope L, Van Gelder E. 2011. The Haleakala Argentine ant project: a synthesis of past research and prospects for the future. Honolulu (HI): Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Technical Report, 173. 127 pp.
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