Watch out! Alien ants from western Asia are about to invade Norfolk
- Credit: Archant
Alien Ant Invasion could be the title of a 1950s B-movie. But there is nothing fictional about the army of tiny insects that are on the brink of crossing the border into Norfolk.
And we are all being urged to keep a (very sharp) eye out for the catchily-named lasius neglectus, which is the first overseas ant species to invade the UK.
It is believed the ant first arrived eight years ago and it has been spotted in six locations so far - including recently in Cambridgeshire.
It looks similar to our common brown garden ant - and local experts suspect it could use its innocent appearance to slip past Norfolk's wildlife enthusiasts.
Doreen Wells, Norfolk County Recorder for Ants, said: 'We know colonies of lasius neglectus have been discovered recently in Cambridgeshire - how long before they cross the county line into Norfolk?'
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Although it might seem harmless, she warned that it had a fatal attraction to electricity, overrunning fuse boxes, plugs and electrical equipment. The largest colony ever found in the UK consisted of 35,000 ants crammed into a single small fuse box.
She added: 'This ant is normally spread into new areas accidentally, through a nest hidden in the bottom of a garden centre pot plant or when infested soil is imported to a new area.'
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It could have a major impact on local insect biodiversity as the ant excludes native ant species from areas around the colony and also has an impact on ground foragers such as woodlice and beetles.
The ants' origins are mysterious but experts believe it may be native to western Asia. It usually nests in the ground beneath stones or paving, building huge underground 'super' colonies which can stretch undetected for miles.
As the third annual national Invasive Species Week starts on Monday, experts from Norfolk's Non-native Species Initiative are calling on insect spotters to keep an eye out.
At first glance the invader appears similar to the common brown garden ant, however on close inspection its antennae lack the tiny hairs seen on the native species. As the ant has a shorter hibernation period than the native species it is a good idea to look out for ants which appear to be unusually active early in spring or in late autumn.
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