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Netherlands Ants

Peter Boer

The Netherlands (41.528 square kilometers, population over 16 million) is comprised entirely of lowlands. One quarter of the country's acreage is below sea level. More than half is agricultural. Ants here are sparse. Due to the highly anthropogenic landscape with a very high proportion of urban areas and intensive agricultural fields, only nature reserves and semi-natural areas, e.g. linear elements like roadside verges, harbour substantial amounts of species. The Netherlands species list includes 65 native species (see native list publication). Studies on three native species (Polyergus rufescens, Camponotus ligniperdus and Myrmica sulcinodis) demonstrate that their numbers are decreasing. Sightings of one species (Lasius citrinus) have not been recorded in the past 50 years. It is unclear whether or not this species is extinct. The presence of Myrmica schenckioides and Stenamma westwoodi is of great international importance. Formica pratensis, F. rufa and F. truncorum are protected by law.

A total of 77 introduced ant species have been recorded in the Netherlands. Of these 77, 39 species were intercepted at ports. Since these 39 species are not yet established in the country, they are not included in the Netherlands ant list, but are listed (here). The remaining 37 species, 34 are only established indoors, while 3 have established outdoors. Indoors, the most frequently encountered are Monomorium pharaonis, followed by Linepithema humile, Tapinoma melanocephalum and Technomyrmex vitiensis. The latter is now the most common species in botanical gardens and zoos.

Introduced population may be temporary due to pest control measures or environmental changes such as vegetation succession, or habitat changes such as the replacement of wooden railway sleepers in concrete ones. Better hygiene in houses and improved pest control measures has probably reduced local establishment in the last decades. These measures have not reduced introduction of a species on a national level, but have impacted local establishment.

Moreover, most introduced ants are poor colonizers that find themselves unable to settle and/or spread after arrival. However, three introduced ants are locally established: Camponotus vagus scutellaris and Plagiolepis schmitzii. These three species have settled locally and do not appear to be spreading to other locations (see exotic list publication).

Peter Boer
Netherlands Ant Curator
Download Boer et al. 2003 List of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Belgium and The Netherlands, their status and Dutch vernacular names (Entomologische Berichten 63: 54-58).

Boer & Vierbergen 2008 Exotic ants in The Netherlands (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) (Entomologische Berichten 68: 121-129).

Species list of the Netherlands