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A New Pest to Add to the Already Big List of Pests in NYC

Updated: Jun 19

By: Andy Yu

An organized line of ant's traverses through an apartment complex. They wander around the large kitchens and living rooms only to be met with angry humans like Melissa Paige. Prior to this ant encounter, Paige had never seen an ant in her second-floor apartment and then one day “they just showed up”. Paige’s experience is not just limited to herself but also to many other New York City residents as shared on a forum on reddit.

At this dramatic peak of ant infestations, scientists such as Samantha Kennett, a graduate student who works at Dr. Clint Penick’s social insect's lab, have taken the responsibility to find out why and how these ants just suddenly appeared.

In 2011, the ant species Lasius Emarginatus was first spotted living in New York City. These ants are not native to the US. The pests stole a ride overseas from Europe. Over the last decade, Lasius Emarginatus have become extremely successful at thriving in an urban environment leading to recent ant infestations in high apartment complexes and a punny nickname: the ManhattAnt.

Kennett has been studying and researching these successful and now common ants for the past few years and has been able to come to some concrete conclusions as to why these ants are able to live in high storied apartments. Generally, ants prefer being on the level of the ground and dirt. However, ManhattAnts are very mobile. In the wild, they climb trees to forage and now apparently like to climb apartments.

Dr. Rob Dunn, a professor at North Carolina State University who teaches applied ecology, believes that ManhattAnts motives for scaling the 5-story building is to look for water and are not looking to stay as a pesty roommate. Instead, the ants “nests in the ground,” under logs and natural habitat. Kennett also notes that the ManhattAnts are not interested in human food as they often look to eat other insects and honeydew a substance from tree pests and aphids.

The infestation of ants in New York City apartments is new and exciting to researchers like Kennett and Dunn, but for the rest of the city this is just another added pest to the already big list of annoying creatures to deal with.


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