New Zealanders may have unwittingly unwrapped an unwanted present this Christmas, with the Department of Conservation (DOC) worried about the spread of an Argentine ant.
The pesky creatures have posed a serious threat to New Zealand's environment since their introduction to Auckland around 25 years ago, and are continuing to spread across the country.
Since arriving in New Zealand, they've since spread to many coastal and inland areas around the North Island and have been discovered on Great Barrier Island.
DOC says the problem is many people will be completely unaware they've been gifted the ants until it is too late.
"Their impact on our environment is serious because of their sheer numbers, appetite and aggressiveness," DOC technical advisor Dr Chris Green says.
"They compete with kiwi for food such as insects and worms; compete with other native birds and lizards for plant nectar, and can kill or displace native invertebrates."
DOC advises not to be on the lookout for Argentine ants specifically, which are honey-brown and around 2-3mm long, but rather make sure no insects at all are wrapped up in outdoor equipment.
A good squirt of insect spray should be used to deal with any infestations.