Pesticide makes invading ants suicidally aggressive

Neonicotinoids change behaviour in ways that could affect spread of invasive species.

Neonicotinoid insecticides have developed a bad reputation for their unintended and potentially harmful effects on pollinating insects such as bees. A study in New Zealand now shows that the chemical can also change how native and invasive ants interact.

New Zealand is facing an invasion of Argentine ants (Linepithema humile), which compete with native southern ants (Monomorium antarcticum). The insects often meet in urban or agricultural areas, where neonicotinoids are in use. So ecologist Rafael Barbieri, a graduate student in the lab of Philip Lester at Victoria University of Wellington, wondered whether the behavioural changes that have been associated with sublethal neonicotinoid exposure in other insects affect how the two species interact. Read more in Nature.