Invasive ant, Wasmannia auropunctata, in Far North Queensland

Publication Date
Wed, 11 Jan 2012, 01:00
Last Updated
June 30, 2015, 8:23 a.m.
Report Number
AUS-50/2
Country
Australia
Pest Id
Wasmannia auropunctata - (WASMAU)
Report Status
Preliminary
Hosts
Environment, humans
Pest Status
  • Present: under eradication
Geographical Distribution
Near Cairns, Far North Queensland
Summary

The invasive electric ant pest, Wasmannia auropunctata, was first discovered near Cairns in 2006. Other detections have been made to the south and north of Cairns, at Port Douglas and Mission Beach. Eradication is being undertaken using lures and baiting. A surveillance program and strong community engagement with post-treatment surveillance continuing in all infested areas. Movement controls are in place to help prevent spread.

Danger
The principle effect of W. auropunctata is on the environment and humans. The ants are generalist feeders, feeding 24 hours a day in most weather conditions. A large proportion of their diet is from honeydew from scale insects which they farm, creating an agricultural nuisance. They can cause declines in the numbers of invertebrates and small vertebrates, and compete with other ant species within the affected area, particularly if infestation levels are heavy. They are believed to have caused a decrease in reptile populations in New Caledonia and in the Galapagos Archipelago where they eat tortoise hatchlings and attack the eyes and cloacae of adult tortoises. In human habitations, the ants may sting and even blind domestic pets (cats and dogs). W. auropunctata injects a powerful venom when it stings which results in painful, itchy and persistent pimples, and sometimes severe allergic reactions. They sting when they come in contact with people, such as in gardens or in water in swimming pools. Foraging trails may enter houses. In agricultural and residential areas, the ant may be a great nuisance to humans by reaching high densities and stinging people working in the field as well as in and around their homes
Contact for info
Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer Australian Government Department of Agriculture, GPO Box 858 Canberra ACT 2601 Australia ippc.contactpoint@agriculture.gov.au
Website
http://www.dpi.qld.gov.au/4790_5772.htm
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