Yellow crazy ants

On its own the yellow crazy ant may not seem so scary, but when they link up to form super colonies, as they have done near Cairns, they can strip the forest of wildlife. Photo: David Wilson

On its own the yellow crazy ant may not seem so scary, but when they link up to form super colonies, as they have done near Cairns, they can strip the forest of wildlife. Photo: David Wilson

Yellow crazy ants are a highly aggressive tramp ant from south-east Asia that made it into Australia through our ports. In a suitable climate, such as the Queensland Wet Tropics, they can form super colonies that cover vast areas and carry huge social, environmental and financial impacts.

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

What’s at risk?

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.

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 floor ecology. Yellow crazy ants have created a huge increase in sap-sucking bugs and sooty moulds that severely damage plants and trees, further degrading the island’s forests. Numbers of native insects and other small animals have also been dramatically reduced.

Yellow crazy ant colonies that have formed near sea bird colonies overseas 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.

A huge financial 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.

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

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, Yvette Williams, 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.

The ants had not only infested local bushland but were invading people’s homes. Nome lies close to the Mt Elliot section of Bowling Green Bay National Park, which is home to many threatened species, including northern quolls, the black-throated finch and Mount Elliot mulch-skink.

Eradication work has only just begin, and over the next two years the project will need more people on the ground carrying out follow-up baiting, surveying and monitoring if we are to successfully eradicate yellow crazy ants from the area.

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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