"Stowaway ants" are making their way around the world in higher numbers than previously thought—and some of them are rather nasty, according to Spanish scientists. Most of the insects are transported in ships and planes amid plants, wood, fruit, and soil, and about 85% of the introduced species set up shop successfully abroad. That means more than 600 species may have established colonies around the world—and many "that are living around us as of yet undetected," lead author Veronica Miravete tells the BBC.
So why worry? Well, in Europe, aggressive Argentine ants have upset the ecosystem by establishing big colonies that out-perform the local ants. And the US has seen South America's Rasberry crazy ants nest in electronics and short-circuit equipment. Worse, they're hard to get rid of once colonies are in full swing. But Miravete suggests ways to stop the influx—like setting up black lists and quarantine inspections at our borders. "But especially," she says, "we have to observe shipping routes from the regions with the highest probability of leading to introductions."