Department Chair

I. Martha Skerrett, Ph.D., Chair and Associate Professor of Biology

Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

Biology, M.A.


Biology Department


Robert J. Warren II, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology

First Reader

Robert J. Warren II, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology

Second Reader

Amy McMillan, Ph.D., Professor of Biology

Third Reader

Christopher Pennuto, Ph.D., Professor of Biology


Successful non-native species can reduce native species richness through both direct and indirect competition. Many invasive ants, such as the European fire ant (Myrmica rubra), are particularly successful invaders due to their ability to form multi-nest, multi-queen “supercolonies” that appear to displace native ant and non-ant invertebrate fauna in invaded regions. Myrmica rubra has invaded the Northeastern United States, including Tifft Nature Preserve in Western New York, but its seemingly negative impacts on local invertebrate communities have only been assessed using correlative studies, making it difficult to determine whether these ants directly displace native ants and invertebrates or are simply better suited for different habitat conditions than the natives. I surveyed Western New York parklands to investigate native ant and non-ant invertebrate abundance in M. rubra-invaded and uninvaded areas. I then tested these observations with an ant pesticide treatment targeting M. rubra at Tifft Nature Preserve to investigate the direct impacts of M. rubra on the native ant and invertebrate community and potential cascading effects on leaf decomposition. A consistent, negative relationship was found between M. rubra and native ants in both the observational and experimental research, and native ant species only appeared in the pesticide-treated plots with reduced M. rubra abundance. These data strongly suggest that M. rubra actively displaces the native ants with invasion. Myrmica rubra appeared to share habitat with non-ant invertebrates in both the observational and experimental research, and the removal of M. rubra resulted in increased predatory invertebrate populations and a subsequent decrease in invertebrate prey species. I found no effect of M. rubra reduction on leaf litter decomposition. Nevertheless, these results indicate that M. rubra is negatively impacting native ant communities, and even though implementing a targeted pesticide may help native ant populations rebound, the removal of M. rubra may negatively impact invertebrate detritivores.

Included in

Entomology Commons