Australia: Invasive yellow crazy ants found at gateway to Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef - PressFrom - Australia
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AustraliaInvasive yellow crazy ants found at gateway to Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef

01:50  22 july  2019
01:50  22 july  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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A north Queensland council is working with the State Government to stamp out an invasive crazy ant species — capable of causing devastation to native wildlife — before it reaches the Whitsunday Islands.

The yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) is a species of ant , introduced accidentally to northern Australia and Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, that has caused ecological damage in both locations and is now found in the northern suburbs of Brisbane.

Invasive yellow crazy ants found at gateway to Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef© Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation The Whitsunday Regional Council is urging locals to learn to identify yellow crazy ants. (ABC Tropical North: Melanie Groves) A north Queensland council is working with the State Government to stamp out an invasive crazy ant species — capable of causing devastation to native wildlife — before it reaches the pristine Whitsunday Islands on the Great Barrier Reef.

The Whitsunday Regional Council has joined with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Biosecurity Queensland to eradicate an infestation of yellow crazy ants found at Shute Harbour, near Airlie Beach, in May.

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Yellow crazy ants are considered one of the world's top 100 most invasive species and form in large densities to create 'super colonies'.

Wet Tropics Authority senior technical officer Gareth Humpherys travelled to the region to advise the council on eradication methods, and said if unmanaged, the ants could be devastating.

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"They will affect small vertebrates; frogs are particularly vulnerable [as] frogs have a delicate skin," Mr Humpherys said.

"The ants spray formic acid, and that causes a lot of problems to frogs, but small reptiles, ground-dwelling birds, they're all affected when the ants reach super-colony numbers.

"These guys are a generalist ant, they eat a range of foodstuffs. They will eat all the native insects and eventually push all the native ants out so that all that is left is crazy ants."

Pristine islands under threat

The Whitsundays aren't the first islands to be threatened by the ants. About 40 million of Christmas Island's famous red crabs have been wiped out by the ant species since the early 1990s.

The yellow crazy ants have been identified at the Shute Harbour carpark, close to where tourists transfer from the mainland to the Whitsunday Islands' national parks and resort locations.

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The Great Barrier Reef protects the Whitsunday Coast and Islands from huge ocean swells Great Barrier Reef – Where to Stay. Stay close to the action on Hamilton Island or Daydream Island. The different types of animals found along the Great Barrier Reef help make it one of the richest and

The Great Barrier Reef is teeming with colourful coral, marine life and beautiful islands waiting to be discovered. Learn about reef conservation, how to get All of the Whitsunday Islands are surrounded by fringing reef teaming with soft or hard corals and fish life. Hamilton is the only island with an airport

A spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Science has confirmed there are no known populations of the ants on Whitsunday Island national parks.

However, surveys are still being conducted to confirm findings in the mainland Conway Conservation Park.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers have increased biosecurity measures for the Whitsundays, and are monitoring campgrounds and worksites.

Scott Hardy, Whitsunday Regional Council's natural resource manager, said they were also working closely with the tourism sector to prevent the ants from spreading.

"Some of the methods which have been implemented at the moment are to do surface sprays on the boats [and] to increase their baiting programs on their boats and their other businesses."

Mr Hardy said strategies were being prepared should the ants be found on the islands in the future.

"[The strategy] may involve modifying vehicle movements, people movements, having a certain baiting program for that island."

Using DNA to track infestations

It is the first time crazy ants have been identified in the region, but colonies were found in far north Queensland in 2001 and in New South Wales last year.

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Samples of the ants found in the Shute Harbour carpark have been taken for DNA analysis.

Mr Humpherys said analysing the DNA would help to identify which colonies the ants were related to."[DNA analysis] should be able to tell us if this infestation is related to other infestations north of here or to the south," he said.

"It just helps local managers to understand the pathways the ants are being moved around in, and that's something they can work to move and control."

Warning to the Whitsundays

Far north Queensland man Frank Teodo and his dog were temporarily blinded when they were sprayed with formic acid by crazy ants that took over his home.

"It's basically a nightmare when they develop supercolonies … they can wipe out just about everything in their path," Mr Teodo said.

"It's a threat to your economy, the environment and your lifestyle."

He said the effect of the ants could not be overestimated, and advocates for them to be tackled by multiple agencies and additional funding.

"I've always said … when you've got a small fire, if you jump on it and throw everything at it, you can knock it back," Mr Teodo said.

"But if you stand back and watch, it can engulf the countryside."

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