Invasive ant researchers invade the Top End
Invasive ants globally cause billions of dollars in lost agricultural production and damage to buildings, and are a major threat to the environment.
More than 50 leading invasive ant scientists and managers from 10 countries will be meeting at CSIRO’s Darwin laboratory to present the latest findings in research and management.
CSIRO ecologist, Dr Ben Hoffmann, says addressing the global problem of invasive ants had proved a challenge, with only a few eradication success stories achieved around the world in the past 100 years.
“We hope that by bringing key people together we will be able to foster some of the linkages necessary to significantly advance global invasive ant management,“ Dr Hoffmann says.
In northern Australia, the four most serious pest ant species are Yellow Crazy ants(Anoplolepis gracilipes), Tropical Fire ants (Solenopsis geminata), African Big-headed ants (Pheidole megacephala), and Singapore ants (Monomorium destructor).
Yellow Crazy ants have invaded north-east Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, as well as numerous locations along the east coast, and have the capacity to spread right across the north to Broome. Tropical fire ants are widespread in towns and cities in the NT, while Singapore ants and African Big-headed ants are found throughout Australia.
Dr Hoffmann says African Big-headed ants and Yellow Crazy ants can form huge colonies, totally displacing native animals and seriously disrupting ecological processes.
“They can cause outbreaks of sap-sucking insects, which in turn are able to kill vegetation. This makes them a serious pest of agriculture as well as the natural environment,“ he says.
Invasive ants are rapidly spreading overseas, particularly within the Pacific region.
“The USA now spends $7 billion dollars annually controlling Fire Ants (Solenopsis invicta) and Taiwan has instigated a Fire Ant eradication program similar to that currently being conducted in Brisbane.
“These are wars that we cannot afford to lose.“
CSIRO has led eradications of some of the world’s worst ant pests from regions of outstanding ecological and cultural significance in northern Australia, including Kakadu National Park, Arnhem Land and the Tiwi Islands.
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