The notorious big-headed ant was intercepted before it could gnaw its way through the Lowcountry.
The ants, along with a bunch of other insects, were found April 30 in the port of Charleston, crawling around in a container of aluminum scrap metal on a ship from Costa Rica, according to Steve Switzer, spokesman for the local customs office.
The bigheaded ant is listed among 100 of the “World’s Worst” invaders, he said. It not only threatens native plants and other insects, it’s known to chew on irrigation pipes, telephone cables and electrical wires.
“Previous introductions of big-headed ants in Hawaii have put many native insects at risk, adding many to the threatened or endangered species list,” he said. “It probably will cause many species extinctions and probably already has.”
Customs and Border Patrol Agriculture Specialists forwarded more than 10 different insect specimens from the ship to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Protection and Quarantine entomologist. One of the insects was identified Thursday as the infamous Pheidole species, commonly referred to as a “big-headed ant.”
“Each day (Customs and Border Patrol) prevents harmful organisms like the bigheaded ant from entering the U.S. at more than 300 ports of entry,” Switzer said.
The shipment will undergo extensive fumigation before leaving the port, he said.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or twitter.com/dmunday.