The Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) is an invasive species that disrupts the balance of natural ecosystems by displacing indigenous ant species throughout its introduced range. Previous studies that examined the mechanisms by which Argentine ants attain ecological dominance showed that superior interference and exploitation competition are key to the successful displacement of native ant species. The objective of this research was to test the hypothesis that effective interference competition by Argentine ants may also be detrimental to the survival of Argentine ant colonies where Argentine ants and native ants compete at toxic baits used to slow the spread of Argentine ants. To study this hypothesis, we examined the competitive interactions between Argentine ants and native odorous house ants, Tapinoma sessile, in the presence and absence of toxic baits. Results showed that Argentine ants aggressively outcompete T. sessile from toxic baits through efficient interference competition and monopolize bait resources. This has severe negative consequences for the survival of Argentine ants as colonies succumb to the toxic effects of the bait. In turn, T. sessile avoid areas occupied by Argentine ants, give up baits, and consequently suffer minimal mortality. Our results provide experimental evidence that highly efficient interference competition may have negative consequences for Argentine ants in areas where toxic baits are used and may provide a basis for designing innovative management programs for Argentine ants. Such programs would have the double benefit of selectively eliminating the invasive species while simultaneously protecting native ants from the toxic effects of baits.
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