Stealing into Australia: our new pests, year-by-year

As long as Australia has weak biosecurity laws dangerous new environmental invaders will continue to steal into our country. They come in many forms, as weedy garden species, hidden in cargo ships or even brought in and sold as ‘pets’.

In the invasion timeline below we’ve listed new invasive species we know have been found in Australia since 2000, but there may be many more. Let us know if you know of others, firstly since you may be the first to have seen the invader since most detections rely on a vigilant public. Secondly, our list relies heavily on unofficial reports as there is no requirement for government to report known detections.

Invasive species in Australia 2017

  • Asian black-spined toad. Photo: DEPI

    Asian black-spined toad. Photo: DEPI

    Asian black-spined toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus). Detected in Perth (Cloverdale). A single toad was found in Cloverdale, which is just 10km east of Perth city and close to Perth Airport. The Asian black-spined toad is the cooler climate version of the cane toad that is devastating northern Australia. Despite being slightly smaller it has the same poison glands and a voracious appetite. No sign of other Asian black-spined toads has been found so far.

 

Invasive species in Australia 2016

  • South African preying mantis detected in Victoria. Photo: Adam Edmonds | BowerBird.org.au

    South African preying mantis detected in Victoria. Photo: Adam Edmonds | BowerBird.org.au

    Red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta). Detected in Queensland (Brisbane airport). Fire ants dominate their environment, displacing native ants and killing small mammals.

  • South African praying mantis (Miomantis caffra). Detected in Victoria (Geelong). Introduced preying mantis are difficult to distinguish from native Australian mantis, but the Australian Museum’s mantis expert Graham Milledge identified it as a South African praying mantis, Miomantis caffra. This mantis has spread to New Zealand, where it is known as the ‘springbok mantis’. Although New Zealanders do not consider it a pest there are fears it could be displacing native mantis species. The mantis was given a low impact risk assessment.

Invasive species in Australia 2015

  • Macau paper wasp. Image use CC BY 3.0 AU

    Macau paper wasp. Image use CC BY 3.0 AU

    Asian black-spined toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus). Detected in NSW (Belrose). A single toad was captured in the garden of a veterinary clinic. Thought to be brought in with a neighbour’s shipping container of relocated furniture from Singapore. The toad was euthanised. The Asian black-spined toad is the cooler climate version of the cane toad. No sign of other Asian black-spined toads have been found.

  • Browsing ant (Lepisiota frauenfeldi). Detected in the Northern Territory (Darwin Port). Browsing ants form super-colonies, reaching large numbers. They farm and protect scale insects that can eventually kill the plants they live on, and they eat and displace native ant species as well as other insects. A national cost-shared eradication program is underway.
  • Macao paper wasp (Polistes olivaceus). Detected on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, a territory of Australia. The federal government is funding its eradication.
  • Red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta). Detected in Queensland (Brisbane airport). Fire ants dominate their environment, displacing native ants and killing small mammals.

Invasive species in Australia 2014

  • Asian black-spined toad. Photo: DEPI

    Asian black-spined toad. Photo: DEPI

    Asian black-spined toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus). Detected in Victoria (Sunbury). A single toad was found in a dog’s water bowl in a resident’s backyard. The toad was euthanised. The Asian black-spined toad is the cooler climate version of the cane toad. No sign of other Asian black-spined toads have been found.

  • Red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta). Detected in NSW (Sydney, Port Botany). Fire ants dominate their environment, displacing native ants and killing small mammals. It is presumed they were accidentally introduced via cargo. A rapid and effective response resulted in a high confidence that there are no further nests within the 2km surveillance zone.

Invasive species in Australia 2013

  • Skin secretions produced by smooth newts could prove deadly to native birds in Melbourne’s suburbs. Photo: John Beniston (CC BY-SA 3.0)

    Skin secretions produced by smooth newts could prove deadly to native birds in Melbourne’s suburbs. Photo: John Beniston (CC BY-SA 3.0)

    Red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta): Detected in Queensland. Fire ants dominate their environment, displacing native ants and killing small mammals. They were accidentally introduced via cargo. A national, cost-sharing eradication program is in place.

  • Browsing ant (Lepisiota frauenfeldi): Detected in Western Australia. Their potential environmental impacts are unknown. It is presumed they were accidentally introduced via cargo. The Australian Government is carrying out an eradication program.
  • Smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris): Detected in Victoria. Smooth newts compete with and prey on native frogs and fish, as well as other species. They could be toxic to native predators. They were likely introduced illegally into Victorian waterways by a pet keeper. Surveys have been undertaken but a national eradication proposal was rejected.
  • Erythrina gall wasp (Quadrastichus erythrinae): Detected in Queensland. This invasive wasp is likely to infect native plants. It was introduced via natural or human movement from Papua New Guinea. It is under containment.
  • Dolphin morbillivirus: Detected in South Australia. This outbreak killed more than 69 bottlenosed and common dolphins. How it arrived in South Australia is unknown. The South Australian government and other institutions investigated.
  • Yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes): Multiple detections in Queensland and NSW dating back to 2001. Yellow crazy ants displace native ants and kill small animals. They have led to an ecosystem meltdown on Christmas Island. They were most likely introduced in timber on cargo. They have been eradicated in NSW but eradication in Queensland has been abandoned, except for the Wet Tropics thanks to federal government funding.
  • Tomato red spider mite (Tetranychus evansi): Detected in NSW. This spider mite damages native plants. How it arrived in NSW is unknown. There is no information on what action was taken.
  • Banana freckle: Detected in the Northern Territory. A disease that may infect native bananas. Its introduction source is unknown. There is a national eradication program.

Invasive species in Australia 2012

  • Pythium is a genus of parasitic oomycotes. They were formerly classified as fungi. Source: wikipedia. Photo: Josef Reischig, CSc. - Author's archive | CC BY-SA 3.0

    Pythium is a genus of parasitic oomycotes. They were formerly classified as fungi. Source: wikipedia. Photo: Josef Reischig, CSc. – Author’s archive | CC BY-SA 3.0

    Didemnum perlucidum: Detected in Western Australia. This marine pest was introduced via biofouling, the term used to describe organisms that grow on ships and marine equipment. Its environmental impacts are unknown. No action was taken, eradication was seen as unfeasible.

  • Pythium camurandrum: Detected in Victoria. This plant pathogen may infect native plants. Its source is unknown. No action was taken, eradication was seen as unfeasible.
  • Pythium rostratifingens: Detected in Victoria. This plant pathogen may infect native plants. Its source is unknown. No action was taken, eradication was seen as unfeasible.

Invasive species in Australia 2011

  • A virus new to Australia can kill hobby pigeon flocks and could be a risk for native birds Photo: Iskra Photo | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

    A virus new to Australia can kill hobby pigeon flocks and could be a risk for native birds Photo: Iskra Photo | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

    Pigeon paramyxovirus: Detected in Victoria. A viral infection that potentially infects a wide range of native bird species and carries a high rate of mortality. Probably introduced into Victoria via a smuggled bird species. Actions were taken to contain its spread.

  • Fig mosaic virus: Detected in South Australia. Unknown potential to infect native figs. How it arrived in South Australia is unknown. No action was taken, eradication was seen as unfeasible.

Invasive species in Australia 2010

  • Scrub myrtle (Rhodamnia rubsecens) has been so badly hit by myrtle rust since the disease reached Australia in 2010 that is was nominated for listing as critically endangered. Photo: Tim Low

    Scrub myrtle (Rhodamnia rubsecens) has been so badly hit by myrtle rust since the disease reached Australia in 2010 that is was nominated for listing as critically endangered. Photo: Tim Low

    Myrtle rust (Puccinia psidii): Detected in NSW. Myrtle rust infects hundreds of plant species belonging to the myrtle family, including threatened species. Its introduction into Australia was accidential via an unknown pathway. A national, cost-sharing eradication program was attempted and then abandoned.

  • Hemileia wrightiae: Detected in the Northern Territory and Queensland. This fungal pathogen infects the Wrightia genus of flowering plants, two are known to be infected. Its introduction is presumed accidental. No action has been taken.
  • Ostreid herpes virus 1: Detected in NSW. This oyster pathogen infects the exotic pacific oyster in Australia. It is unknown if it infects native oysters. How it was introduced is unknown. A containment program was put in place.
  • Chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica): Detected in Victoria. The potential of this pathogenic fungus to infect Eucalyptus species is known. We do not know how it arrived in Victoria. It is under eradication.
  • Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus: Detected in NSW. This virus could infect native plants. How it arrived in NSW is unknown. A containment and eradication program was put in place by industry.

Invasive species in Australia 2009

  • A black slug on rotting vegetation. Photo: Prashanthns | CC BY-SA 3.0

    A black slug on rotting vegetation. Photo: Prashanthns | CC BY-SA 3.0

    Black slug (Arion ater): Detected in Victoria and Tasmania. The black slug is large and omnivorous, and could threaten native snails. Its introduction was accidental. No action was taken.

  • Pearl eartheater (Geophagus braziliensis): Detected in NSW. The environmental impacts of this invasive aquarium fish are unknown. Released from an aquarium, there is no information on any action taken.

Invasive species in Australia 2008

  • Mexican feathergrass used in a garden. Photo: Stealingsand | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

    Mexican feathergrass used in a garden. Photo: Stealingsand | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

    Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima): Detected in NSW and the ACT. Mexican feathergrass can dominate woodlands and grasslands. Introduced illegally – mistakenly sold as a different plant species or bought on Ebay. It has been removed from sale, sold plants have been traced and some populations eradicated.

  • Unconfirmed pox virus: Detected in South Australia. The virus caused mass mortality of endangered southern bentwing bat pups. It is not known if it was introduced from overseas and no data can be found on actions taken.
  • Green shrimp plant (Blechum pyramidatum): Detected in the Torres Straits Islands. This herb native to South America competes with Australian native plants. It’s introduction is unknown and no data can be found on what action was taken.
  • Hairy cotton (Digitaria brownie): Detected in Queensland at a RAAF base, Weipa. Hairy cotton competes with native plants. It is unknown what action was taken.

Invasive species in Australia 2007

  • Indian ringneck parrot. Photo: Dev WRStealingsand | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

    Indian ringneck parrot. Photo: Dev WRStealingsand | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

    Asian green mussel (Perna viridis): Detected in Queensland. An invasive mussel that is a threat to the Great Barrier Reef. It smothers and excludes other species. It was introduced via ‘biofouling’, the term used to describe organisms that grow on ships and marine equipment.

  • Indian ringneck parrot (Psittacula krameri): Detected in WA. Indian ringnecks compete with native parrots. They have either escaped from or been released by pet owners. They have been removed from the wild in WA but many live outside of captivity in eastern Australia.
    Multiple detections every year 2005-07.
  • Red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans): Detected in Queensland, Victoria, the ACT and NSW. Red-eared slider turtles compete with native turtles and prey on native species. They are often smuggled into Australia and released into waterways by pet keepers. Queensland may have eradicated this species, eradication has not been attempted in NSW.
    Multiple detections every year 2004-07.

Invasive species in Australia 2006

  •  Fire ants dominate their environment, displacing native ants and killing small mammals. Photo: Alex Wild

    Fire ants dominate their environment, displacing native ants and killing small mammals. Photo: Alex Wild

    Electric ant (Wasmannia auropunctata): Queensland. Electric ants are a dominating species that displace native ants and kill small mammals. Introduced accidentally on cargo. A national, cost-sharing eradication program is in process.

  • Red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta): Detected in Queensland. Fire ants dominate their environment, displacing native ants and killing small mammals. They were accidentally introduced via cargo. A national, cost-sharing eradication program is in place.

Invasive species in Australia 2005

  • Climbing perch. Photo: Sahat Ratmuangkhwang - FishBase | CC BY-SA 3.0

    Climbing perch. Photo: Sahat Ratmuangkhwang – FishBase | CC BY-SA 3.0

    Argentine ant (Linepithema humile): Detected on Norfolk Island. This invasive ant could threaten several rare birds. Introduction accidental, probably on cargo. Control has been undertaken and an eradication program began in 2014.

  • Climbing perch (Anabas testudineus): Torres Strait Island. Native to Asia where they are commercially fished climbing perch could have major impacts on native fish if it reaches the Australian mainland. How it arrived on the island is uncertain – it may be natural spread from Papua New Guinea or an illegal introduction.

Invasive species in Australia 2004

  • Jack Dempsey Cichlid. Photo: OutlierForLife Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

    Jack Dempsey Cichlid. Photo: OutlierForLife Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

    Miconia nervosa: Detected in Queensland. This rainforest shrub can compete with native plants. Method of introduction unknown. A national, cost-sharing ‘Four Tropical Weeds’ eradication program was put in place but then halted in 2015.

  • Emerald furrow bee (Halictus smaragdulus): Detected in NSW. An invasive bee it competes for resources, spreads disease, pollinates weeds and disrupts the pollination of native plants. Its introduction is presumed accidental, but is unknown. Surveys of this invasive species were undertaken in 2008 funded by philanthropy.
  • Jack Dempsey cichlid (Rocio octofasciata): Detected in NSW. An aquarium fish known for its aggression and for displacing other species. Released from an aquarium. Eradication in 2005-05 was unsuccessful.
  • Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima): Detected in NSW and the ACT. Mexican feathergrass can dominate woodlands and grasslands. Introduced illegally – mistakenly sold as a different plant species or bought on Ebay. It has been removed from sale, sold plants have been traced and some populations eradicated.

Invasive species in Australia 2003

  • African big-headed ant. Photo: Shannon Hartman | antweb.org | CC BY 3.0 AU

    African big-headed ant. Photo: Shannon Hartman | antweb.org | CC BY 3.0 AU

    African big-headed ant (Pheidole megacephala): Detected on Lord Howe Island. An invasive ant that preys on invertebrate species, monopolising food and displacing native ants. Eradication started in 2008.

Invasive species in Australia 2002

  • Miconia racemosa: Detected in Queensland. This invasive rainforest shrub from tropical America can compete with native plants. Its introduction is unknown. An eradication program is in process.
  • Speckled mosquito fish (Phalloceros caudimaculatus): Detected in NSW. An aquarium fish that is known for its aggression, predation and for carrying disease. Released from aquarium. Eradicated by the NSW government.
  • White cloud minnow (Tanichthys albonubes): Detected in Queensland and NSW. Another aquarium fish known to compete with other species and to carry disease. Released from aqueria. Biological control failed, and a 2007 eradication proposal was not funded.
  • Asian green mussel (Perna viridis): Detected in Queensland. An invasive mussel that is a threat to the Great Barrier Reef. It smothers and excludes other species. It was introduced via ‘biofouling’, the term used to describe organisms that grow on ships and marine equipment.

Invasive species in Australia 2001

  • Koster’s curse. Photo: Forest & Kim Starr (Licence: CC BY 2.0)

    Koster’s curse. Photo: Forest & Kim Starr (Licence: CC BY 2.0)

    Black slug (Arion ater): Detected in Victoria and Tasmania. The black slug is large and omnivorous, it could threaten native snails. Its introduction was accidental. No action was taken.

  • Hybrid cichlid: Detected in Victoria. Hybrid cichlids are an aquarium fish that compete with native species and carry disease. They were released from an aquarium.
    Action taken unknown.
  • Koster’s curse (Clidemia hirta): Detected in Queensland. This weed forms dense thickets that smother native vegetation. The introduction was accidental introduction, possibly as a contaminant of packaging material. A national, cost-sharing ‘Four Tropical Weeds’ eradication program was put in place but then halted in 2015, the weed continues to spread.
  • Limnocharis flava: Detected in Queensland. This is a serious, shallow-water weed that displaces native plants and animals. It also restricts water flow and traps silt. A national, cost-sharing ‘Four Tropical Weeds’ eradication program was put in place but then halted in 2015.
  • Red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta): Detected in Queensland. Fire ants dominate their environment, displacing native ants and killing small mammals. They were accidentally introduced via cargo. A national, cost-sharing eradication program is in place.

Invasive species in Australia 2002

  • Carder bee. Photo: Didier Descouens | wiki | CC BY-SA 4.0

    Carder bee. Photo: Didier Descouens | wiki | CC BY-SA 4.0

    Carder bee (Bombus pascuorum): Detected in Queensland and NSW. Carder bees pollinate weeds and promote their spread. The introduction is presumed accidental. No action was taken.

  • Blue acara (Andinoacara pulcher): Detected in Victoria. Blue acaras are an aquarium fish that compete with native species and carry disease. They were released from an aquarium. Action taken unknown.
  • Ferret (Mustela putorius furo): Multiple, unconfirmed sightings in Tasmania, Victoria and WA. Ferrets prey on native animals. Escaped pets.
  • Jewel cichlid (Hemichromis): Detected in the Northern Territory and Queensland. Jewel cichlids are an aquarium fish that compete with native species and carry disease. They were released from aquaria and eradicated from a creek near Darwin.
  • Three spot gourami (Trichopodus trichopterus): Detected in Queensland. Three spot gourami are an aquarium fish that compete with native species and carry disease. They were released from an aquarium. Action taken unknown.