Exotic species are organisms that have moved beyond their natural geographical range either via
human induced, accidental or purposeful introductions. Invasive species are known to have a
negative impact on the ecosystem of a particular habitat or another species.
It is not surprising that Florida has one of the most severe non-native species problems. Much of
the state consists of a patchwork of habitats resulting from human activities such as
agriculture, water management, dredging and filling and residential development. Due to the lack
of naturally limiting predators, unoccupied niches or where an introduced species outcompetes
native species, invasive plants are dominating ecosystems in many areas of Florida.
Black rats (Rattus rattus) are established on wetlands and on islands within Mosquito
Lagoon Aquatic Preserve (MLAP) and can be detrimental to recreational campers, native bird
species and other ground or arboreal nesters. Armadillos occasionally are found on islands within
the Mosquito Lagoon; however, they have not caused extensive damage to native habitats.
Two species of fire ants are found in Florida. Most notorious is Solenopsis invicta, the
red imported fire ant (RIFA), followed by the much less common S. geminata, the tropical
or native fire ant. RIFA was first introduced from Brazil into either Mobile, Alabama or
Pensacola, Florida between 1933 and 1945. Since the introduction of RIFA, it has become a major
agricultural and urban pest throughout the southeastern states. In addition, fire ants cause both
medical and environmental harm.
RIFA have been reported to reduce ground-nesting populations of rodents and birds. In certain
instances, RIFA may completely eliminate ground-nesting species from a given area. The cost
associated with the control of RIFA is significant. State and federal agencies have spent more
than $250 million in order to control or eradicate this fire ant.