Killer ant colony concern

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - Sheep - ALEXANDRA LASKIE

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.

PHOTO: FILE

BIOSE­CU­RITY THREAT: Yel­low Crazy Ants have been found in north­ern New South Wales.

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