Space Invaders – the 1978 arcade classic – can teach us a thing or two about Insect Invaders…..? Sure, why not! The space things (insect invaders) are trying to reach the bottom of the screen (enter the ecosystem). There’s different types (species). At the bottom there’s a gun thing (active management). And the longer it goes on the faster the space things get (an increasing problem overtime)…. Yep, analogy holds strong.
So we have a good understanding of insect invaders then? Not particularly! Even though insects are by far and beyond the most numerous and diverse group of species (seriously far and beyond), researchers tend to double-down their efforts on plants and key animal species, leaving insect invaders kind of occupying the backseat.
Of course there are some well studied species that you will know – poster children if you will – many of which you’ve probably run into. Argentine ant, big-headed ant, fire ant …. Also things that aren’t ants! Check out what happened out the front of my house last year, it was feral honeybee madness (READ STORY v WATCH VIDEO).
So long story short, we need to know more. That’s why in late 2014 an international workshop was hosted in Stellenbosch, South Africa, that got together a whole bunch of researchers to share ideas, data, and to discuss what we do and do not know about the drivers, impacts, mechanisms and adaption of insect invasions.
Weren’t at the workshop? Not a problem! There’s a special issue of Biological Invasions that has just been published that covers it all. This paper by Matt and colleagues serves as a general introduction to the issue. It is a short discussion on the pathway of invasion (drivers), how species go about setting up (mechanism), the damage they can do (impacts) and how rapid evolution plays a part (adaptation). Essentially a tease of all the juicy science packed into the issue!
For the actual science of this story you definitely read the paper a contact the authors if you have any questions.
Hill MP, Crusella-Trullas S, Terblanche JS & Richardson DM (2016) Drivers, impacts, mechanisms and adaptation in insect invasions. Biological Invasions 18: 883-391.
K!E13 by Luke S. O’Loughlin