Biological Invasions

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 507–515 | Cite as

The Trojan horse approach for managing invasive ants: a study with Asian needle ants, Pachycondyla chinensis

  • Grzegorz BuczkowskiEmail author
Original Paper


Ants are among the most ecologically and economically significant biological invaders and are notoriously difficult to eradicate once established. Invasive ants are typically managed with toxic baits which are often unattractive to the target species, toxic to non-targets, and environmentally persistent. The current study evaluated a novel Trojan horse approach for managing invasive ants in natural habitats based on the use of poisoned prey. Eastern subterranean termites (Reticulitermes flavipes) were topically exposed to fipronil and presented to Asian needle ants (Pachycondyla chinensis) which are a significant invader in natural and disturbed habitats in the eastern United States. In laboratory assays, P. chinensis colonies were offered fipronil-treated termites within experimental arenas. The termites were readily attacked and consumed and results demonstrate that a single termite exposed to 25 ppm fipronil for 1 h is capable of killing 100 P. chinensis workers in 9 h. To evaluate population effects, field studies were conducted in forested areas invaded by P. chinensis. Fipronil-treated termites scattered on the forest floor provided rapid control of P. chinensis and ant densities throughout the treated plots declined by 98 ± 5 % within 28 days. I demonstrate that the poison baiting approach based on fipronil-treated termite prey is highly effective against P. chinensis and may offer an effective alternative to traditional bait treatments against other invasive ants, especially those with predatory and generalist feeding habits. Furthermore, I demonstrate that the poison baiting approach offers environmental benefits by delivering substantially less toxicant to the environment relative to current control methods which rely on commercial bait formulations. In summary, the poison baiting approach evaluated in this study appears highly suitable for controlling invasive ants and should be further tested against other invasive ants.


Asian needle ant Bait Control Fipronil Pachycondyla chinensis Predation Predator–prey interactions Reticulitermes flavipes Termite 



I thank the staff of Tanglewood Park and Bermuda Run for permission to access the study sites, P. Lester, J. Silverman and two anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript, J. Obermeyer (Purdue Extension Entomology) for photographs of ant–termite interactions (Fig. 1), and D. Richmond and W. Wei for statistical advice. Financial support was provided in part by the Industrial Affiliates Program at Purdue University.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EntomologyPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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