|Potential global range expansion of the invasive fire ant|
The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, is an invasive pest that has become widespread in the southern United States and Caribbean after accidental introduction from South America in the 1930's. This species, which has diverse detrimental impacts on recipient communities, was recently discovered in Australia and New Zealand and has the potential to colonize numerous other regions. We used a dynamic, ecophysiological model of colony growth to predict the potential global range expansion of this invasive species. Based on minimum and maximum daily temperatures, the model estimates colony alate production and predicts future geographic range limits. Because S. invicta populations are limited by arid conditions as well as cold temperatures, we superimposed precipitation data upon temperature-based predictions, to identify regions that do not receive enough rainfall to support this species across the landscape. Many areas around the globe, including large portions of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and numerous island nations, are at risk for S. invicta infestation. Quarantine officials should be vigilant for any accidental introductions of this pest in susceptible regions. Costs of eradication increase dramatically as the area of infestation grows, and large infestations may be impossible to eradicate. Other South American Solenopsis fire ants (e.g., S. richteri Forel) may become invasive if the opportunity arises, and our predictions for S. invicta may approximate the potential range limits for these species as well.