- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Know your ants.
If you want to identify red imported fire ants and other invasive ants found in the
“This is one of the most clearly organized and informative sites I've ever seen,” said Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology. “It should be an invaluable resource for anyone needing information about pest ants in the
Invasive ants threaten the native biodiversity, food security and quality of life, said Sarnat, who is researching the systematics, biogeography and conservation of ants in
The ant key empowers professionals and non-professionals alike to identify the ants they encounter.
Sarnat compiled the guide using Lucid3 software. It covers four subfamilies, 20 genera and 44 species and includes:
- An overview of the species
- Diagnostic chart illustrating a unique combination of identification characters
- Comparison chart illustrating differences among species of similar appearance
- Video clip of the species behavior at food baits Image gallery that includes original specimen images and live images
- Nomenclature section detailing the taxonomic history of the species
- Links and references section for additional literature and online resources
The project was funded primarily by a cooperative agreement between UC Davis and the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Plant Health Science and Technology.
Sarnat became interested in invasive ants while studying at UC Berkeley. He managed the field operations for the National Science Foundation-funded Fiji Terrestrial Arthropod Survey for a year before returning to his graduate studies at UC Davis. “My experience with the arthropod survey,” he said, “prompted me to switch my thesis To raise awareness about invasive ants in the country, Sarnat conducted a series of workshops in
“Although the workshop participants all acknowledged the danger that ants like Solenopsis invicta (red imported fire ant) and Wasmannia auropunctata (little fire ant) posed to the environments, economies and public health of Fiji,” he said, “it was clear that none of the local entomologists or quarantine officers had the taxonomic expertise to recognize the species at ports of entry.”
With funding from
“I was contracted to develop an interactive identification guide that allowed non-specialists to accurately identify the most common and dangerous invasive ants,” Sarnat said.
The instructors provided each participant with a microscope, laptop and a CD of the new identification guide at the five-day workshop, held at the University of the Pacific in
“The workshop was a great success,” he said. “The participants felt newly empowered to prevent invasive ant incursions on their islands.”
Sarnat presented the first edition of the Pacific Invasive Ant key (PIAkey) at the 1st Pacific Invasive Ant conference in
Sarnat said the second edition represents a significant improvement over the first edition. It features fact sheets for each species, numerous specimen images and live images, videos of the ants feeding at baits, an illustrated glossary of technical terms, and an illustrated Lucid key to 44 species of invasive ants.
“Taxonomy can be a difficult field to learn because it has traditionally been taught as a body of knowledge passed down from mentors to students or through scattered and often old literature,” he said. “One must also examine specimens that exist only in a few museums across the world.”
The most exiting aspect of PIAkey, Sarnat said, is that it empowers non-specialists—those not trained by a mentor, or with no access to old literature or far-off museum collections--to use the recent technologies of digital images, the Internet, and an interactive identification software like Lucid to make accurate identifications themselves.
Last year the Bohart Museum of Entomology published a color poster of Sarnat’s auto-montages of the heads of 12 common invasive ants. The poster, “Pacific Invasive Ants,” is available at the
Further information on Sarnat’s work is on his Web site.