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