For­eign pest ants on the march

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Belmont - Jaime Shurmer

MORE than 70 busi­nesses in Perth Air­port and Bel­mont are un­der surveil­lance in a bid to erad­i­cate ex­otic pest ants that were spot­ted at a Bel­mont freight de­pot in Au­gust last year.

The brows­ing ant Lepi­siotafrauen­feldi is na­tive to south­ern Europe but eats other ants and can form su­per­colonies to dis­place na­tive ant species.

The Bel­mont sight­ing fol­lowed de­tec­tion of brows­ing ants at Perth Air­port in April 2013, which was the first known de­tec­tion in Aus­tralia.

The erad­i­ca­tion cam­paign at the air­port was prompted when ants were col­lected dur­ing a Fed­eral Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture survey that tar­geted premises han­dling in­ter­na­tional cargo.

Depart­ment of Food and Agri­cul­ture WA en­to­mol­o­gist Marc Wid­mer said freight move­ments from this area may have been the cause of the Bel­mont in­fes­ta­tion.

The ants have not been sighted at Perth Air­port since last year but that area re­mains un­der surveil­lance.

DAFWA, in con­junc­tion with the Fed­eral Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, be­gan bait­ing and spray­ing.

“The busi­nesses will al­low DAFWA staff ac­cess to their prop­er­ties to carry out reg­u­lar checks over the next two years to en­sure erad­i­ca­tion has been achieved,” Mr Wid­mer said.

“Surveil­lance will con­tinue in the two ar­eas – Perth Air­port and Bel­mont – to de­tect if there are sur­viv­ing Lepi­siota.

“Erad­i­ca­tion can be de­clared after two com­plete years have elapsed with no ev­i­dence of sur­viv­ing colonies in each area.”

Mr Wid­mer said visual surveil­lance was used in known or likely nest­ing places.

“Some ants look very sim­i­lar, so ants are col­lected and taken back to my lab for mi­cro­scopic ex­am­i­na­tion to de­ter­mine species and recorded,” he said.

“This gives me an in­ter­est­ing ac­count of what ant fauna ex­ists in that area, and the likely ef­fect a pug­na­cious species such as this one is hav­ing on lo­cal na­tive in­ver­te­brate fauna.

“I also use lure surveil­lance where I leave small vials out for two hours with a lure I have de­vised to at­tract that species. Then I come along and snap the lids on my catch and take back the sus­pect ones for ex­am­i­na­tion,” he said.

Mr Wid­mer said brows­ing ants could dis­place other in­ver­te­brates like slaters and spi­ders, re­duc­ing food sources for lizards and birds.

The pub­lic, es­pe­cially peo­ple liv­ing in Bel­mont and Red­cliffe ar­eas, who sus­pect they may have seen brows­ing ants should call DAFWA on 1800 084 881.

En­to­mol­o­gist Marc Wid­mer checks for brows­ing ants.

Pic­tures: David Baylis

En­to­mol­o­gist Marc Wid­mer with Hall­mark Signs man­ager Matt Turner dis­cuss the for­eign brows­ing ant pest prob­lem near the business.

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