A news story from Australia this morning reminds us how most pest ants move around the world:
Fire ants have been found in a box of mining equipment shipped from the US to Queensland’s Western Downs, sparking fears the deadly ants may have spread.
Staff at a Roma mining company found the fire ants at the base of a crate and sprayed them immediately, but Biosecurity Queensland is inspecting the site and neighbouring properties in case they have spread.
The crate had been shipped from Houston, Texas, an area known to be infested with fire ants, and tests on Tuesday confirmed the ants found in Roma were red imported fire ants.
In our recent discussions of exotic ant traders, a common rationale for allowing commerce in ants is that, whatever volume of ants is mailed about among myrmecological enthusiasts, it is dwarfed by the volume moved about in potted plants and general shipping. And this observation is absolutely true. In the big picture, globalization is the force behind the recent intensity of pest ant invasions. Any real containment of the invasive species problem has to focus primarily on stronger security for general commerce.
Ultimately, though, as a rationale I find the ant-keepers’ argument unconvincing. It is like justifying shoplifting because Bernie Madoff’s crimes are higher volume. The lesser of two evils still isn’t good.