Experimental evidence that the introduced fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, does not competitively suppress co-occurring ants in a disturbed habitat


Joshua R. King, Florida State University, Department of Biological Science, Unit 1, Tallahassee, Florida, 32306, USA. E-mail: jking@bio.fsu.edu


  • 1The fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, is a globally distributed invasive ant that is largely restricted to disturbed habitats in its introduced range. For more than half a century, biologists have believed its success results from superior competitive abilities relative to native ant species, as well as an escape from their natural enemies.
  • 2We used large volumes of hot water to kill fire ant colonies, and only fire ant colonies, on experimental plots in pastures, and found that populations and diversity of co-occurring ants did not subsequently increase.
  • 3These results are contrary to classical predictions and indicate that S. invicta is not a superior competitor that suppresses native ants, and that the low diversity and abundance of native ants in degraded ecosystems does not result from interaction with fire ants. Instead, other factors such as prior disturbance and recruitment limitation may be the primary limiting factors for native species in these habitats.