Yellow crazy ants

Our Work  |  Invasive Insects  |  Photo: David Wilson

Yellow crazy ants are on the list of 100 of the world’s worst invasive species and threaten Queensland’s Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, the oldest continuously surviving tropical rainforests on Earth and home to the greatest biodiversity found anywhere in Australia.

If not stopped in their tracks they could threaten Queensland with economic and ecological disaster, putting the state’s sugar cane industry at risk and threatening devastating impacts on housing development in Cairns.

Please join us and call on the Australia and Queensland governments to fully fund the final stages of the Yellow Crazy Ant Eradication Program!

Putting entire ecosystems at risk

Although the ants are tiny they can swarm in great numbers, killing much larger animals like lizards, frogs, small mammals, turtle hatchlings and bird chicks.

When their numbers hit super colony levels they can have a devastating impact on native wildlife and plants, upsetting entire ecosystems.

On Christmas Island the ants have killed millions of the famous red land crabs and robber crabs, both of which play an important role in the island’s forest ecology. Sap-sucking bugs and sooty moulds that severely damage plants and trees have proliferated, further degrading the island’s forests. Numbers of native insects and other small animals have been dramatically reduced.

Overseas, yellow crazy ants nesting near seabird colonies have killed and deformed large numbers of chicks by constantly spraying them with acid.

While ant numbers and their impacts fluctuate depending on environmental conditions, Queensland’s wet tropics make ideal habitat for yellow crazy ants and are especially vulnerable to invasion.

People at risk

Funding from the Australian and Queensland governments has allowed the Wet Tropics Yellow Crazy Ant Program to drastically reduce ant numbers.

The program is on track to achieve eradication within a ten-year timeframe. But ongoing funding is vital for success.

TAKE ACTION: Call on the Australian and Queensland governments to fund the $6 million a year needed over seven years to complete the eradication of yellow crazy ants from the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

Yellow crazy ants are a highly aggressive tramp ant that made it into Australia through our ports. In a suitable climate such as that of the Queensland Wet Tropics they can form super colonies over vast areas and have huge environmental, social and economic impacts.

Yellow crazy ants do not bite, but spray formic acid to blind and kill their prey.

Once the ants reach super colony levels they can become a severe threat to people, especially children and the elderly, as well as pets. They can damage household electrical appliances and wiring.

One man in Australia has already suffered serious injury from yellow crazy ants. While sleeping at his home in Edmonton, Queensland, the ants swarmed all over Frank Teodo’s face, burning his eyes badly with their acid. And he’s not alone, people’s pets have been sprayed by the ants’ acid, injuring their eyes, mouth and paws. The ants can also kill small and young animals including chickens and native animals.

A huge economic burden

Yellow crazy ants are a huge threat to agriculture in Australia’s warmer regions. By farming sugar-secreting scale insects and encouraging sooty moulds they can dramatically reduce the productivity of crops such as fruit trees and sugar cane.

An independent review by Melbourne University found the invasive ants are still eradicable and their preliminary analysis shows that without the program the socio-economic costs alone would exceed $700 million over the next seven years.

They would destroy tourism values in Queensland’s Wet Tropics World Heritage rainforests region, where tourism is worth $2 billion a year.

Project manager with Kenfrost Homes, Adam Gowlett, says the Cairns housing market faces devastating impacts if the yellow crazy ant eradication program is not fully funded.

“If there was no eradication program yellow crazy ants would have a devastating impact on housing development in Cairns,” he says. “People simply wouldn’t want to move their families into an area where there is the risk of yellow crazy ants.”

Sugar cane farmers Dino and Stella Zappala have seen first hand how the eradication program has reduced ant numbers on their farms and allowed the sugar industry to continue to operate with little inconvenience.

“If the ants return to former densities, they will quickly spread and damage sugar cane production and could make the industry unviable.”

What we’re doing

We’ve joined Townsville City Council in the battle against yellow crazy ants in Queensland’s far north.

Our community coordinator, Bev Job, is working with the council to help local communities eradicate yellow crazy ants, which have been present in Nome, just south of Townsville, since 2008.

Nome lies close to the Mt Elliot section of Bowling Green Bay National Park, which is home to many threatened species, including the northern quoll, black-throated finch and Mount Elliot mulch-skink. The ants have also invaded people’s homes.

Eradication work has only just begun, and over the next two years the project will need more people on the ground to carry out follow-up baiting, surveying and monitoring.

Get involved

  • The Townsville Yellow Crazy Ant Community Taskforce project is supported by the Queensland Government’s Community Sustainability Action grant program.
    If you would like to get involved or want to be kept informed of our efforts sign-up to our Townsville Taskforce email list.
  • You can also follow the taskforce on Facebook.

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