, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 551-572
Date: 30 Aug 2011

The hitchhiker’s guide to alien ant invasions

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Alien ants are among the most deleterious predatory invertebrates causing havoc to native biodiversity including negative effects on other ant species, other invertebrates and vertebrates, particularly birds and lizards, ecosystem function, economy, animal and human health. The patterns of alien ant invasions and reasons for their success are among the most intensively studied facets of invasion ecology, with feedback to a general understanding of ant ecology. Alien ant management can intervene at any step during the invasion process, with action for preventive measures being the most efficient. Beside standard chemical treatments, new methods and technologies for mitigation and control of ant invasions are mostly in a trial stage. A brief outlook on the most promising offensive lines is given with particular attention paid to Wolbachia-symbiosis. Ultimately, an integrative alien species management strategy is imperative to cope with accelerating biodiversity losses due to biological invasions.


There is some controversy around how and where Douglas Adams (1952–2001), famous writer and advocate for the environment, had the idea for the title of his novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. One story is that it was while hitchhiking in Innsbruck (Austria), lying drunk and looking at the stars. Maybe untrue, but ants do hitchhike as well sometimes, there is prominent ant research going on this topic today, and the several titles of his “trilogy” fit so perfectly well to the structure of this manuscript that I cannot resist using them slightly modified here. By mere chance, of course, the number of recorded alien ants in Europe matches his answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything: 42.
Handling Editor: Helen Roy