Nick Jordan

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Alien Invaders
A Guide To Non-Native Species Of The Britisher Isles
by Jacob Cartwright & Nick Jordan
48 pages, 10 colour plates, hardcover, 2006
published by Book Works

"Researching invasive non-native species of plant and animal life, this collaborative project documents, through drawing and text, the discovery and history of selected alien species introduced to the British Isles, and the effect on native wildlife. Presented as a cross-pollination of fact and fiction, this wonderfully inventive book takes the form of an illustrated natural history guide, offset by the artists’ interventions.

"Ten alien invaders are categorised and illustrated, including: the American Bullfrog, Giant Hogweed, Spanish Bluebell and Wels Catfish. In the manner of a scientific guidebook each entry lists, ‘Category of Introduction’, ‘Problems caused by Introduction’, and ‘Efforts of Control or Eradication’, drawing on both scientific fact and often bizarre cultural anecdote." - Book Works catalogue

Alien Invaders trumps the dull heavyweights of life science literature - LabTimes

delightful to handle....tart and pleasingly oblique - New Statesman

click here for reviews

complete artwork

An extract:

 

Pharaoh Ant

Category of introduction
Unintentional

Origins of introduction
The Pharaoh Ant is thought to originate from Egypt, from where a mass exodus of this irritating pest has rapidly spread to every corner of the globe (especially where central heating is present). Proliferated by trade, and frequently intercepted in cargo at international borders, the widespread and confusing distribution of this ‘tramp ant’ means, however, that its native origins will always be in some doubt (Gikys & Kappelhoff, 1994). Significantly, the Pharaoh Ant was properly noted and expertly drawn by the great British egyptologist Howard Carter, during the dramatic opening of King Tutankhamen’s Tomb, in 1922. On excavating the foreboding stairwell, and scoffing at the inscription Death Shall Come on Swift Wings To Him Who Disturbs the Peace of the King, Carter recorded being suddenly transfixed by ‘a mass colony of erratic reddish ants, containing several hundred queens, workers and pupae — yes, wonderful things, and dare I wonder a precursor to the hidden treasures contained in this noble antechamber …’ (Howard Carter’s Diary, November 5th, 1922).

Problems caused by introduction
The Pharaoh Ant is an aggressive scavenger with a generalist diet. It will eat just about anything, including other dead ants and shoe polish. Unlike most ants it is a polygynous species — with a mating system in which a single male has a breeding relationship with more than two hundred queens. Each individual colony normally contains 2,532 workers, but a high density of nests gives the impression of incredible, enormous colonies. They appear to lack nest-mate recognition; so, unlike common ants, there is no hostility or disputes between neighbouring colonies. The Pharaoh reproduces on a mass scale by ‘budding’, where a subset of the colony, including queens, workers and brood, leave the main colony for an alternative nest site (Grubbs & Vlcek, 1987). Budding is the major contributor to their problematic invasiveness: a fresh budded-up colony can populate a large important office block, to the exclusion of all other insect pests, in less than the average British forty-eight-hour week.

In Britain the Pharaoh Ant inhabits only well insulated, heated buildings, such as old people’s homes and hospitals, where artificially high temperatures are usually sustained throughout the year. Increasingly, the Pharaoh Ant has become a major hazard in our hospitals; its miniscule dimensions allow it to get right into things and directly access gaping wounds and driplines. The ants, commonly nesting in wards, under cracked lino floor coverings, spread infection through pathogenic microbes. They contaminate sterile materials, such as rubber gloves, surgical masks, glucose solutions, dressings, as well as the ubiquitous grapes and flowers on bedside tables. Pharaoh Ants have even carried infection to the eyelids of infants, causing some cutaneous lesions on premature newborns (Fowler et al, 2004). ‘Superbug’ outbreaks, such as Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas, are thought to be associated with these alien blighters. Infection between patients can also spread between hospitals and geriatric homes, when patients or staff move from one location to another, with ants and larvae ferried unknowingly upon clothes and hair. The Pharaoh Ant regularly nibbles through plastic food packaging and totally infests the contents, causing much distress and alarm to consumers. It also chomps through instrument cabling, causing severe electrical interference or total malfunction.


Efforts of control or eradication
Due to colonies budding-up with neighbouring colonies when under attack, the Pharaoh survives all known spray-delivered household pest control treatments. Elimination, with honey or peanut butter baiting programmes, is prone to difficulty because, when alerted, multiple colonies subcontract into smaller colonies, which then sub-divide into even smaller colonies, and so on, weathering the storm and making themselves virtually invisible, only to rebound and regroup when baiting is withdrawn (Deyrup, 2000). Their close association with human beings, and the location of nests within public buildings, means the miniscule Pharaoh is easily transported and very difficult to control. Documented cases of human-assisted spread include via infestation of loaves of rye bread from Bavarian bakeries to psychiatric hospitals in the former East Germany (Eichler, 1993), and via packaged instant noodles, vests, soft-drinks and potted aspidistras (Eichler, 1978).