Invading Argentine ants carry virus that attacks bees


ANT FIGHT  Invasive Argentine ants, shown in a threesome attacking a native New Zealand ant, carry hitchhiking viruses, a new survey says.

Phil Lester

The first survey of viruses in the globally invasive Argentine ant brings both potentially bad and good news.

One of two viruses identified to be actively reproducing in the ants (Linepithema humile) is a known threat to honeybees, says Philip Lester, a community ecologist at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. Called deformed wing virus, it might use ants as a reservoir, spreading to bees that are visiting the same flowers or getting raided for honey by the ants, Lester and colleagues suggest September 9 in Biology Letters.  

The other virus is new to science. Christened LHUV-1 (pronounced “love-one”), it belongs to the dicistrovirus family, which includes many insect pathogens. Whether LHUV-1 actually sickens Argentine ants remains to be seen. If it does, Lester says, the virus might prove useful to check the spread of the ants.

Susan Milius is the life sciences writer, covering organismal biology and evolution, and has a special passion for plants, fungi and invertebrates. She studied biology and English literature.

More Stories from Science News on Animals