Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Variation in the Persistence and Effects of Argentine Ants throughout Their Invaded Range in New Zealand

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Version 3 2023-03-14, 23:29
Version 2 2023-03-13, 23:57
Version 1 2021-11-12, 09:34
posted on 2023-03-14, 23:29 authored by Cooling, Meghan Dawn

Invasive ants are a serious ecological problem around the world. The Argentine ant has had devastating effects on resident ant communities and may negatively impact other invertebrates in its introduced range. First detected in Auckland in 1990, this invader has since spread widely around the country. The effect of Argentine ants on invertebrates in New Zealand was investigated by comparing ground-dwelling arthropod species richness and abundance between and among paired uninvaded and invaded sites in seven cities across this invader's New Zealand range. In order to study density-dependent effects, invaded sites were chosen so as to differ in Argentine ant population density. The effects of rainfall and mean maximum temperature on Argentine ant abundance and the species richness and abundance were also examined. Argentine ant population persistence in New Zealand was examined by re-surveying sites of past infestation across this species range. The influence of climate on population persistence was investigated, and how this effect may vary after climate change. Additionally, the potential of community recovery after invasion was also examined. Epigaeic (above ground foraging) ant species richness and abundance was negatively associated with Argentine ant abundance; however, no discernable impact was found on hypogaeic (below ground foraging) ant species. The effect of Argentine ant abundance on non-ant arthropod species richness and abundance was mixed, with most arthropod orders being unaffected. Diplopoda was negatively influenced by Argentine ant abundance while Hemiptera was positively influenced. Annual rainfall and mean maximum temperature were found to have no effect on Argentine ant abundance or resident ant species richness and abundance, though these variables did help explain the distribution of several non-ant arthropod orders. Argentine ant populations appear to be collapsing in New Zealand. Populations had a mean survival time of 14.1 years (95% CI= 12.9- 15.3 years). Climate change may prolong population survival, as survival time increased with increasing temperature and decreasing rainfall, but only by a few years. Formerly invaded Auckland ant communities were indistinguishable from those that had never been invaded, suggesting ant communities will recover after Argentine ant collapse.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Ecology and Biodiversity

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Biological Sciences


Lester, Phil