Latin name: Wasmannia auropunctata
Notable feature: The Electric Ant is less than 2 millimetres in length, orange/brown in colour, and very slow-moving and sluggish.
Conservation Status: Not Evaluated
Where in the UK: Occasional records. Not established in the UK as nests are destroyed once reported. It has recently (2018) been recorded in southern Spain, in the region of Malaga (Marbella). Before that, it was first recorded in greenhouses in 1927 in United Kingdom.
Electric Ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) © Carmen Chase
The Electric Ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) has been recorded in the UK but is not established; with nests being destroyed once reported. If it were to establish it would be considered an Invasive Non-Native Species. It goes by many different names around the world and is also known as the Little Red Fire Ant, Little Introduced Fire Ant, Small Fire Ant, West Indian Stinging Ant and the Cocoa-tree Ant. (Main image credit: Electric Ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) © Carmen Chase)
The Electric Ant is a small to medium-sized ant, less than 2 millimetres in length, orange/brown in colour, very slow-moving and sluggish. It has long, pointed spines on the propodeum (the first abdominal segment), two nodes (petiole and postpetiole), and two grooves on the front of the head where the antennae can lay at rest (antennal scapes).
Queens are easily distinguished from workers by their larger size (approximately 4.5 mm in length compared to 1.0 – 1.5 mm workers) and darker, reddish-brown coloration.
The Electric Ant is blamed for reducing species diversity, reducing overall abundance of flying and tree-dwelling insects, and eliminating spider populations. It is also known for its painful stings. On the Galapagos, it eats the hatchlings of tortoises and attacks the eyes and cloacae of the adult tortoises.
It is considered the greatest ant species threat in the Pacific region.
- Size: Electric Ant workers range from 1-1.5mm and queens are approximately 4.5mm in length.
- Life span: The lifespan of Electric Ants depends on their size and purpose. Queens live for approximately 12 months and lay up to 70 eggs a day. Adult workers live for more than 40 days. Males live for several weeks.
- Diet: The Electric Ant is a generalist omnivore preferring to feed on invertebrates (dead & alive), seeds and honeydew. It may also feed on dead vertebrates or vertebrates that they have managed to overwhelm. When honeydew-producing aphids are present, a large part of its diet is likely to consist of the carbohydrate-rich residues produced by these insects.
- Reproduction: The Electric Ant is thought to spread primarily by “budding”; groups of workers accompanied on foot by inseminated queens leave the primary nest. A single nest of Electric Ants may contain several wingless reproducing queens, many workers, pupae, larvae, and eggs. This species has two types of reproductive systems:
- Sexual reproduction of workers and females (typical form of reproduction) and males by parthenogenesis;
- males and females can reproduce independently by cloning, and workers reproduce sexually. Cloning is typically observed in human or disturbed habitats, whereas sexual populations typically occur in natural habitats.
- When to see: As this ant is not established in the UK, with nests being destroyed once reported, it is difficult to say where it can be found and seen. The Electric Ant has the ability to thrive in a variety of habitats – from dry to humid areas.
- Population Trend: Unknown
- Threats: The Electric Ant has been listed as one of the 100 most invasive species in the world by “Invasive Species Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union (IUCN)”.
- Several characteristics contribute to its invasive success in new environments: generalist diet: ability to thrive in a variety of habitat types, super colonial social structure, polygyny (multiple queens per colony), clonal reproduction in invasive populations, and association with human-modified habitats.
- They may prey on native insects and cause declines in the numbers of small vertebrates.
- In human habitations it may sting, and even blind, domestic pets.
- Fun Fact: The Electric Ant undergoes sexual reproduction in its native range, however some native and all invasive populations of this species have a surprising clonal reproductive system, in which the queens and males are produced clonally, and the sterile workers are produced sexually.
How you can help:
Buglife is working to increase awareness of invertebrates and the potential and real threats from non-native invasive species, but we need your help!
- Report any unusual looking ants to Buglife.
- Buy locally grown plant species rather than imports.
- Buying locally grown plants, or bare-rooted plants is the best way to ensure we are not spreading non-native species. Plants should be regularly checked to ensure they are free from stowaways and garden centres should be following the Code of Practice to prevent the spread of non-native Flatworms.
- Alternatively, grow plants from seed or cuttings. See our Gardening for Bugs pages for more wildlife-friendly ideas.
- Sign our petition to stop the import of soils and products containing soils:
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