Environment: All about the ‘electric ant’, a dangerous invasive species first detected in France



An invasive and dangerous ant species has been identified for the first time in France. Name: Wassmania Auropunctata or “electric ant.” This insect poses a threat to biodiversity.

Not everything small is (necessarily) cute. The “electric ant”, named after its sting, was first spotted in Toulon (Var) in France, at a height of 1.5 millimeters.

It was an ant enthusiast who told Agence France-Presse that he had crossed paths with this fire ant, Wasmannia auropunctata, in an enclosed seaside residence.

The ant was seen 100 meters from the residence. According to Olivier Blight, a researcher at the University of Toulon’s Mediterranean Biodiversity and Ecology Institute, there is no doubt that “we were already dealing with a supercolonial.”

Despite its slow movements, this species is highly invasive due to its “classical sexual reproduction system and reproduction of queens and males by cloning”.

You don’t need the opposite sex to reproduce

Indeed, Wasmannia auropunctata, native to South America, has a specific mode of reproduction. In classical ants, the queens produce two types of eggs, male and female, while electric ants do not need the opposite sex to reproduce. Thus, they give birth to their own clones.

Its sting causes a nettle-like sensation but lasts much longer. He can blind his victims and therefore scare them away.

In New Caledonia, where he currently resides, the researcher confirms, “We no longer hear insects in the forests he occupies.” It is also available in several Central African countries and French Polynesia.

In humans, unpleasant bites can be expected. Be careful, it can also be life-threatening for people with allergies.

costly eradication

More than 30 million Euros. That’s the price the state of Queensland in northeastern Australia has to pay to eradicate this ant, which has been in the area since 2006.

According to Olivier Blight, it is necessary to “make a precise demarcation of the invasion zone very quickly in order to devise a plan of destruction.” A call to the population has also been launched by the National Museum of Natural History to help researchers estimate the area infested by this insect.

For the scientist, this species deserves the same extermination strategy as the tiger mosquitoes put in place by the authorities.

The researcher plans to conduct an analysis to determine how this species might have come to France.

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