The invasion of ants in Europe

The importation of trees pushes species of ants typical of the Mediterranean basin to invade areas further north, in countries such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands or Germany.

In this issue we talk about the invasive ants thriving with rising temperatures, but first look at the latest data from the Climate Change Service copernicus.

Temperature trends in May

Globally, we just experienced the second hottest May on record. The temperatures were 0.4 degrees Celsius above the 1991-2020 average.

Let’s take a look at some of the main features of the temperature anomaly map for the month of May: European temperatures were generally around the average for the month.

A Italy and the Balkans, in blue, were cooler; suffered the devastating and deadly floods of the past month.

On the other side of the Atlantic, it was much warmer Canada and north of UNITED STATES.

We are witnessing a warming Peacefulwhere the El Niño pattern of warmer waters is returning to this part of the ocean.

On the other hand, if we look at the ice-free regions of the oceanMay 2023 broke a record, with the warmest May sea surface temperature since satellite measurements began.

Let’s not forget that 90% of the excess heat in our atmosphere, due to global warming, is absorbed by the ocean.

invasive ants

This month, we look at how invasive ant species from the Mediterranean are now able to survive further north, as winters in Europe are getting milder and long frosts are less common.

There are new settlements all over Western Europe, including the French city of Lyons.

This center of art and culture, located in a former industrial zone, seems an unlikely place for hunting ants.

But they are there – and two scientists have been invited by the local authorities to find them:

We soon discovered a species of ant called tapinome magnum around these imported trees.

ecology student Neo Boinon says that exotic plants are one of the main ways for invasive ants to reach new towns: “We are interested in one of the main causes of the expansion of the Tapinoma Magnum, which is the fact that these trees are exported, in which there are queens, enough queens. Once they get to the other side, the queens are fine, they are established and they scatter their workers everywhere,” he explains.

The ant hunt continues inside, where we meet a mango artist, Loïs Aimar, who witnessed an ant infestation this winter. “The ants started coming here, under the sink, and they came up to our studio,” he explains.

The ants Lois recorded on her phone were probably looking for sources of food and warmth: “There were thousands of them walking around and sometimes I had them on me when I was working on the ground.”

What is the Tapinoma Magnum?

Tapinoma Magnum is native to the Mediterranean basin and has colonized the urban areas of France, Belgium, Germany and Holland.

It does not cause painful stings, but it is a nuisance to local people and can wipe out native ant populations.

The scientist Bernard Kaufmann says Europe must prepare for more invasive species, such as the electric ant from South America, as the planet heats up: “There are between 100 and 200 species of ants which are the ones that globalization has taken away across the world. And climate change will certainly accelerate this process and encourage the installation of more and more thermophilic, heat-loving species, even in our temperate latitudes,” he explains.

Can we get rid of ants? Chemical treatments can be effective on a smaller scale, but the best approach is prevention by ensuring that invasive species do not colonize imported plants and trees.

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