This glossary defines the technical terms used on the site that new users might not be familiar with. As well as a definition, where appropriate we also provide an indication of where on the site the term is used (i.e. Relates to).

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Abdomen: the end part of an ant, after the head and thorax. Also called the gaster in ants. Relates to Identification.

Active surveillance: a planned process targeted to find and identify a particular new pest. Relates to Prevention.

Antennal club: enlarged segments that form a club-like structure at the end of the antenna. They can be composed of two, three or four segments. Relates to Identification.

Axil: the upper angle between a leaf stalk or branch and the stem or trunk from which it is growing.


Bait matrix: poisons or toxicants are typically delivered in an attractant known as a bait matrix. The composition of this bait matrix is tailored to the food preferences of the target ant species. Relates to Getting Rid of Ants.

Bait shyness: when ants are being treated with pesticides they can learn to avoid the bait. This is because once the ants in the nest start dying they avoid the food source (the bait). If treatments are spaced more widely (sometimes as little as 4 weeks but sometimes as much as 3 months) bait shyness can be avoided. Relates to Getting Rid of Ants.

Bioaccumulation: when pesticides or other chemicals buildup in the tissues of a living organism (ie crabs or fish). This process can make the affected organism unsafe to eat. Relates to Getting Rid of Ants.

Biological control: a means of controlling pests using other living organisms that relies on predation (animals killing other animals for food), herbivory (animals eating plants) or parasitism (using other animals or plants for food, but not killing them outright). There are currently no effective biological controls for invasive ants. Relates to Getting Rid of Ants.

Biosecurity: the protection of a country’s economy, environment and peoples’ health from biological threats such as pests and diseases. Relates to Prevention.

Budding: mode of colony reproduction where new queens do not participate in mating flights, but instead walk away from the nest they were born in with a small group of workers and establish new colonies nearby. Relates to Problem Ants.

Buffer zone: an area surrounding or directly beside a pest population, that is not infested with that pest. It is often treated with toxic baits, or has other special control measures applied to it (such as keeping it clear of objects or debris that could provide nesting sites) in order to reduce the likelihood of the target pest spreading. Relates to Movement Controls and Getting Rid of Ants.


Clonal reproduction: a form of asexual reproduction in which eggs are not fertilised by males. Relates to Little Fire Ant.

Containment: keeping an invasive species within a defined area. Relates to Prevention.

Control: reducing the population of an invasive species. Relates to Getting Rid of Ants.

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Delimiting: determine the boundary of something. With respect to an ant invasion, delimiting the invasion means finding out how far the ants have spread. Relates to Assessing the Problem.

Destruction: a control method that neutralises a potential threat, such as heat treatment, fumigation or cold treatment. This action may result in the carrier item being destroyed: e.g. if a potted plant that is found to have ants nesting among its roots is heat treated, the plant may also be killed. Relates to Prevention.

Dolichoderinae: one of the ant (Formicidae) subfamilies. Relates to Identification.

Dolichoderines: ants belonging to the subfamily Dolichoderinae. Relates to Identification.

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Ecological community: a group of native plants, animals and other organisms that interact with each other in a specific geographical area. Relates to What Are the Problems Invasive Ants Cause.

Effective management: achieving operational success (e.g. reducing the pest to defined levels) and desired outcomes (reduced impact and recovery of impacted values) of invasive species management. Relates to Getting Rid of Ants.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA): an EIA is an analysis of the potential non-target effects of a management plan or activity on the environment. An ESIA also includes social and economic impacts. Both analyses also include suggestions on how these potential non-target effects can be made less serious. Relates to Environmental and Social Impact Considerations.

Environmental threat: invasive ants pose an environmental threat when they are present in sufficient numbers to have measurable and quantifiable ecological effects. Relates to Getting Rid of Ants.

Eradication: the removal of every individual of a species from the infested country, such that the only way the species could re-establish is to re-enter the country from another country. Eradication should be demonstrated by surveillance. Relates to Getting Rid of Ants.

Extra-floral nectary: these are sources of nectar outside the flowers of plants. Relates to What Makes These Ants So Successful.

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Forage / Foraging / Forager: foraging means hunting for food. Foragers are worker ants looking for food.

Formicidae: the family to which all ants belong. Relates to Identification.

Formicinae: one of the ant (Formicidae) subfamilies. Relates to Identification.

Formicines: ants belonging to the subfamily Formicinae. Relates to Identification.

Freedom: the provable absence of a pest organism from a country or region such that the only way the pest could establish is if it were introduced from an external country or region. Relates to Departments.

Fynbos: native shrub land in South Africa. Relates to What are the Problems Invasive Ants Cause.

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Gaster: the end section of the ant connected to the mesosoma by the waist. Also called the abdomen. Relates to Identification.

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Half-life: the half-life is the time required for half of the compound to break down in the environment. Thus, 1 half-life = 50% remaining, 2 half-lives = 25% remaining, 3 half-lives = 12% remaining, 4 half-lives = 6% remaining, 5 half-lives = 3% remaining. Some chemicals metabolise or degrade into other chemicals of toxicological significance, and half-lives can vary widely depending on environmental factors. Relates to Environmental and Social Impact Considerations.

Honeydew: is a sugar rich substance excreted by sap-sucking insects and often deposited on leaves and stems. Some ants 'farm' insects that produce honeydew.  Relates to What Makes These Ants So Successful.

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Impact(s): a routinely used term in invasion ecology and management that refers to the negative effects of an invasive species on resident native organisms (biodiversity), agriculture, economy, health or lifestyle.

Incursion: a single arrival event of an invasive species in a new environment. Typically an incursion is identified at the time of arrival (or first detection), and an incursion response plan developed. The arrival of an organism within a country after it has crossed the border. Relates to Post-border prevention.

Incursion response plan: effectively an emergency response plan to deal with a newly detected incursion of an invasive species. Incursion response plans include a number of steps including: 1) initial detection and response; 2) delimiting survey and; 3) draft management plan, including a surveillance plan, a plan for treatment and eradication (if possible), a communications strategy, specifications for movement controls, monitoring progress, a budget, and an organisational plan. Relates to Post-border prevention.

Inert gas: a gas that does not react with other substances. Relates to Pesticide Residues.

Infestation: a single discrete area where the invasive species is localised. An incursion consists of one or more infestations.

Introduced species: plants, animals and other organisms taken beyond their natural range by people, deliberately or unintentionally.

Invaded area: a location in which an invasive species is present. As opposed to an uninvaded area, where an invasive species is not present. 

Integrated Pest Management (IPM): the goal of IPM is to keep pest populations to a level below which that are doing harm. IPM involves using multiple control options together for the economic control of pests. In an agricultural context the Food and Agriculture Organization defines IPM as "the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimize risks to human health and the environment. IPM emphasizes the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms". Relates to Choosing a Treatment Option.

Invasive ants / invasive ant species: an exotic or non-native ant species that becomes destructive to the environment or human interests in one or more ecological or environmental contexts. Not all invasive ants have major negative effects, and for many species the effects are density-dependent (i.e. effects only occur or are perceived by humans as negative when a threshold of abundance is reached). These are outbreaking species. Threat ant species are those invasive ant species known to have significant impacts in multiple ecological or environmental contexts and / or are prone to outbreaks. Emerging threat ant species are those that have recently been identified as having, or having potential to result in significant impacts. In the context of this Activity, this also refers to exotic or non-native ant species that may be considered a threat for the first time, for which there are no existing processes for biosecurity or management.

Invasive species: introduced species that become destructive to the environment or human interests.

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LC50: lethal concentration in a single exposure that causes death in 50% of animals tested. Relates to Environmental and Social Impact Considerations.

LD50: lethal dose in a single exposure that causes death in 50% of animals tested. Relates to Environmental and Social Impact Considerations.

LOEL: lowest observed effect level. Relating to a pesticide, the lowest level  or concentration at which effects are observed. Relates to Environmental and Social Impact Considerations.

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Management: reducing or eliminating the impacts of established invasive species, by eradication, containment, exclusion, or population reduction by physical, chemical or biological control. Note that although the title of the SPC and SPREP Guidelines for Invasive Species Management in the Pacific refers to management, in this latter context biosecurity is included as part of management.

Monitoring: programmes to detect change, e.g. in the distribution of invasive species, the success of management projects etc.

Monogyne: a monogyne ant colony only has one queen. A polygyne colony has multiple queens. The Red Imported Fire Ant has colonies with both monogyne and polygyne forms. Relates to Problem Ants.

Monomorphic: a monomorphic ant species is one in which all workers are of the same size. This in contrast to polymorphic ant species. Relates to Identification.

Movement Control: preventing an invasive ant from spreading by Controlled Area Notices and Restricted Place Notices and their conditions. Also includes the processing of movement permits, management of perimeter controls, hygiene barriers and signage, and the provision of conveyance decontamination sites. Relates to Post-border prevention.

Mutualism: a relationship between two organisms that both benefit from. Relates to Problem Ants.

Myrmicinae: one of the ant (Formicidae) subfamilies. Relates to Identification.

Myrmicines : ants belonging to the subfamily Myrmicinae. Relates to Identification.

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Passive surveillance:  the detection of exotic species through haphazard, unplanned and unsolicited observations by the general public, farmers, orchardists, gardeners, veterinarians, plant pathologists and others. Relates to Community Awareness.

Pathway: a unique means by which a living organism may enter a country. Relates to Prevention.

Pest: a prion, virus, microbe, fungus, plant or animal capable of causing adverse effects to a country’s natural and introduced biodiversity.

Petiole: waist segment connecting the mesosoma to the postpetiole (Myrmicinae) or the gaster (Forminicane and Dolichoderinae). Relates to Identification.

Pitfall trap: traps placed into the ground to sample animal populations. Relates to Assessing the Problem.

Ponerinae: one of the ant (Formicidae) subfamilies. Relates to Identification.

Ponerines: ants belonging to the subfamily Ponerinae. Relates to Identification.

Polygyne: a polygyne ant colony has multiple queens. A monogyne ant colony has one queen. The Red Imported Fire Ant has colonies with both monogyne and polygyne forms. Relates to Problem Ants.

Polymorphic: workers occurring in different sizes. In Pheidole species, there is a distinct large worker caste (referred to as majors or soldiers) and a distinct minor worker caste (referred to as minors). In Solenopsis invicta, S. geminata and Trichomyrmex destructor the castes are less distinct, with wide range of sizes from very small to very large. Relates to Identification.

Propodeal spines: spines that originate on the propodeum. Relates to Identification.

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Quarantine: legal restrictions imposed on an area, animal, place, vehicle or other item that limit movement for a prescribed period. Relates to At-border prevention.

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Risk: the chance of something happening that will have an impact upon objectives. It is measured in terms of likelihood and consequences. Relates to Prevention.

Risk organism / species: an organism or species that could pose a threat to values we wish to protect. Relates to Prevention.

Risk pathway: the way in which a risk organism can be transported into the country. Relates to Prevention.

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Scape: antenna segment number one. Single antenna segment between funiculus and head. In ants it is very long, giving the antenna an "elbow-like" appearance. Relates to Identification.

Sexual Reproduction: a form of reproduction in which males and females mate to produce offspring. As opposed to asexual reproductive where offspring arise from a single individual. Relates to Little Fire Ant.

Stakeholder: an individual or organization that may be affected by the impacts of a risk organism or control measures taken against it. Relates to Getting Rid of Ants.

Surveillance: a systematic programme of inspection and examination to determine the presence of a risk organism. Relates to Post-border prevention.

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Thorax: the part of an ant between the head and the abdomen. The 'middle' of an ant. Relates to Identification.

Transect: a fixed path along which one counts and records occurrences of the species of interest. Relates to Assessing the Problem and Monitoring.

Treatment: application of pesticide or other means of control at a single point in time. Relates to Getting Rid of Ants.

 Tree crotches: an area on a tree where a trunk, or large branches, split into two forming a 'Y' shape. 

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Understory: the shrubs and plants growing underneath the main canopy in a forest. 

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Vector: a vector is the object that moves an invasive species from one place to another. This may be a vehicle (car, truck, or boat); a commodity (bananas, taro, breadfruit); or other method of movement. Relates to Pre-border prevention.

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Waist segments:  the segment (petiole) or segments (petiole and postpetiole) occurring between the mesosoma and gaster. Relates to Identification.

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A number of these definitions were sourced or adapted from the PIAkey, the SPREP/SPC Guidelines, the book Managing Biosecurity across borders, an MPI publication, which features an extensive biosecurity glossary geared more toward animal diseases.

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