Yellow Crazy Ant Taskforce Taking Care of Business

July 27, 2017

Yellow Crazy Ant Taskforce members from WTMA and Terrain NRMTerrain community partnership officers formed part of a large environmental taskforce helping to eradicate yellow crazy ant infestations around Cairns.

Yellow crazy ants are an invasive species that kill and displace native fauna, threaten the biodiversity of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, and impact local cane farmers and residents.

The taskforce was deployed to hand treat crazy ant-affected areas in riparian creek systems of the Edmonton and Bentley Park districts. Aerial treatments will follow the ground crew’s efforts and target areas away from waterways and residential zones.

Chris Clerc is the Senior Project Officer, Yellow Crazy Ant Eradication Program at Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA). He said that the ants are infamous for their impact on the keystone red crab species on Christmas Island.

“The ants spray formic acid to immobilise their prey, which then dies and becomes ant food. In the Wet Tropics they take out the invertebrates first, like other ants, and then small reptiles and amphibians such as skinks and frogs, and even nesting birds,” Mr Clerc said.

The taskforce is a collaborative exercise coordinated by WTMA and the Far North Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils, with assistance from local councils, QPWS Rangers, Gimuy traditional owners, Djunbunji Land and Sea Rangers, Gunggandji Rangers, Yirrganydji Rangers, Biosecurity Queensland and Terrain NRM.

Rowan Shee is part of the Community Partnerships team at Terrain. He says collaborations like this deliver large scale baiting in a short space of time that would not otherwise be possible. "It is also a great skill building exercise for everyone involved." Terrain is able to support this work through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.

Prior to the eradication program, yellow crazy ants were spreading through the suburbs, cane lands and rainforest. The infestation area is approximately 1000ha. Since the first taskforce in 2014, assessments show a significant reduction in ant population density and minor expansion of the infestation area.

Another round of treatment is expected to also take place during October/November this year.

Yellow crazy ants are restricted biosecurity matter under the Biosecurity Act 2014. Suspected sightings should be reported to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Mr Clerc said there are a lot of native ants that look similar, so identification can be confusing.

“We get call outs for many species of ants, and that’s fine! A false alarm is still an important reference point for us to know where they’re not! It’s also a great indication of good community engagement with the program.”