Kids Make Big (Bad) Ant Discovery

I will try to keep this simple. Out among the leaves and rotten logs of North America lives the Asian needle ant (Pachycondyla chinensis). This ant is native to Japan1. It was first recorded in the U.S. in North Carolina, my state, where it was largely ignored and described as being innocuous. That was a mistake; it was not.

Work by Benoit GuenardEleanor Rice (AKA, Dr. Eleanor) and others including Pat Zungoli and colleagues at Clemson University has revealed this ant to now be among the most common ant species in large parts of North Carolina and South Carolina. Where it is abundant, it takes over. Native ants become rare. Seed dispersal of some native plants slows. It is a bad, bad ant — though because it is alive it is, like all species, also fascinating and mysterious.

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English Majors Discover a New Species in Manhattan, Everywhere

How a group of 19-year-old undergraduate students discovered a common but unnoticed ant species in plain view in New York City.

This story of discovery has a concrete beginning. I remember the day I got the call.  I had just returned from a hiking trip in one of the oldest forests in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the phone rang. It was an invitation to help lead an expedition into the dirty bowels of New York City.

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