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Yellow crazy ants wreak havoc as they traverse Queensland

By on June 6, 2022 0

Urgent action is needed to contain the potentially environmentally catastrophic spread of an invasive species of acid-spray ants, an expert has said.

Yellow crazy ants were first detected in Australia in 2001, but growing infestations – mainly in Queensland – have raised fears that they could wipe out some native small animal species, as well as make outdoor spaces such as unusable parks and backyards.

James Trezise of the Invasive Species Council says the most worrying outbreak is in northern Queensland, where yellow crazy ants are threatening the UNESCO-listed Wet Tropics area, which includes the Daintree Rainforest.

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He said the yellow crazy ants had also ‘done huge damage’ to Christmas Island, while they had also been detected in the Brisbane area and the environmentally sensitive Arnhem Land area of ​​the Northern Territory .

They were reportedly first discovered on the Gold Coast on Monday at a private property in Yatala, amid fears they could spread across the country.

A nest of yellow crazy ants. Credit: Queensland Government

Trezise said the ants prefer the tropics and threaten to cause “extinction-level events”.

“They’re close to really important biodiversity areas,” he told 7NEWS.com.au.

“If yellow crazy ants are allowed to spread across North Queensland they will be a huge disruptor to cane growing and agriculture in those areas.

“And that’s where they will form what we call super colonies. It is such an efficient invader that a colony can have over 100 queens.

File image of a yellow crazy ant.
File image of a yellow crazy ant. Credit: Peter Yeeles, James Cook University/Provided

“That’s why they’re such an effective invasive species. It is one of the worst invasive species in the world.

He said the ants are about 2 miles from Mount Elliot, south of Townsville, where there are “species of frogs and lizards that exist nowhere else in the world.”

“If they get there, they will wipe out these species,” Trezise said.

“Once they are established, they will wipe out all small animals – insects, frogs, lizards – in a landscape.”

Yellow crazy ants are so invasive that Queensland declared them ineradicable in 2012.

Yellow crazy ants in the Northern Territory.
Yellow crazy ants in the Northern Territory. Credit: PAA/provided

Bait is being undertaken to combat them, and during the federal election campaign Labor pledged $24.8 million in funding to groups involved in these efforts.

Trezise said baiting was a difficult and expensive exercise given that yellow crazy ants burrow “deep underground” and more needed to be done to prevent their spread.

What this means for you

However, he said the risk to human health was limited.

“That way you won’t want to go picnicking. You won’t want to use your backyard,” he said.

“People can’t take their kids to play with them because they end up being overrun with crazy yellow ants.

“There are people in Townsville now who can’t sell their homes because they have yellow crazy ant infestations.

“These are not sting ants, whereas the fire ants, which we are trying to bring down in South East Queensland, have actually caused some people to die of anaphylaxis.

“Yellow crazy ants spray acid. They blind their prey and that’s why they are such effective killers. They swarm and blind prey, like a frog or a much larger animal, then slowly consume that animal to feed the colony.

The Queensland Department of Agriculture said work to contain the ants was continuing.

“Biosecurity Queensland works with councils and industry to help landowners manage many invasive pests, such as yellow crazy ants, and their ongoing impacts,” a department spokesperson said.