Conservation-minded entomologists have a tough job convincing people to worry about the fate of insect diversity. A new threat, however, just might be frightening enough to grab an Evening Standard headline. The Natural History Museum’s myrmecologists are tracking the westward spread of a new species of ant as it crosses Germany and France, rapidly advancing towards the UK.
The unkindly named Lasius neglectus look similar to our garden variety ants, but have a key difference in behaviour: new queens don’t fly off to start their own colonies, but stay home with mum, meaning the super-colonies continue to grow across the generations to a hundred times the size of native settlements. These megalopolises can easily drive all competing species out of a region, replacing the valuable tapestry of ant diversity with a single, rather inbred, species.
What’s more, L. neglectus‘s love of the urban lifestyle seems to extend to their choice of habitats. Researchers are finding that they prefer urban parks and gardens most of all. Oh boy, are they going to love London.
Dramatisation of a neglectus invasion by Sparticus from the Londonist flickrpool.