Killer ant colony concern
A SOUTH-EAST Asian ant that can kill young chickens and reduce the productivity of fruit trees has been found in New South Wales.
Samples of exotic ants found in street trees in Lismore were last week confirmed as yellow crazy ants, a highly invasive pest not found in the state since they were eradicated from Goodwood Island in the Clarence River more than a decade ago.
The ants can form “super colonies” containing thousands of queens and worker densities reaching up to 20 million ants per hectare, allowing them to spread rapidly.
Yellow crazy ants pose a major threat to Australia’s biodiversity, a CSIRO case study said, and are a serious pest in horticultural crops.
NSW Department of Primary Industries biosecurity and food safety director of invasive plants and animals, Andrew Sanger, said community action was needed to map the outbreak and ultimately eradicate the ants.
“It was a member of the local community who spotted this outbreak in Lismore and who reported it through the NSW DPI Biosecurity Hotline,” Mr Sanger said.
Invasive Species Council chief executive Andrew Cox said the ants liked warmer climates and fed off sugar-secreting scale insects, dramatically reducing the productivity of crops such as fruit trees and sugar cane.
“This is the first time they have been found in the wild in NSW,” he said.
“I’d be surprised if they reached Victoria, but you never know. Things are heating up, and sometimes they live underground where it is warmer.”
Mr Cox said the threat the ants posed to farmers was underrated.
“The ants will eat chicken hatchlings as they emerge from the shell, so it becomes a totally new problem for poultry farmers,” he said.
The ants do not bite, but spray formic acid to blind and kill their prey.
Anyone who spots a yellow or brownish ant, about 5mm long with long legs and antennae and an erratic walking style is urged to contact the Biosecurity Hotline on NSW DPI’s website or call 1800 680 244.
BIOSECURITY THREAT: Yellow Crazy Ants have been found in northern New South Wales.