Yellow crazy ant taskforce report

With Cyclone Ita bearing down on the region a team of intrepid staff from Tablelands, Hinchinbrook, Cassowary Coast, Cairns and Douglas joined forces with QPWS, indigenous rangers and landholders to identify the western boundary of the Yellow Crazy Ant (YCA) infestation in Edmonton and Bentley Park. 

The taskforce was a joint operation between Wet Tropics Management Authority and FNQROC with additional support from Biosecurity Queensland, Conservation Volunteers and James Cook University.

The Wet Tropics Management Authority is leading a 5 year eradication project on YCA and enlisted the technical expertise of local government pest management staff and planning support of the FNQROC to carry out the operation. The operation was hosted through the Resource Sharing in Joint Operations MOU which FNQROC and member councils have had in place since 2010. 

The operation was a great success and achieved the objective we set out to deliver in a very compact timeframe which rapidly became a single window of opportunity. The task was not glamorous and the terrain was often difficult but the weather was kind to us (we managed to slot the operation in the week leading up to TC Ita after postponing the original date due to yet more wet weather).

Importantly the operation was conducted with no injuries, great team work, high spirits, excellent field communications and a great level of professionalism from everyone involved. The survey methods we were using in the field were new to us and un-trialled but the teams made it work. We were also using some newer GPS/comms technologies which we were a little apprehensive about worked well in the field and enabled the operation to run smoothly and adapt on the go. A great learning and skill building/sharing experience overall.

For many it was their first encounter with YCA (most are well versed in your more traditional pests and weeds) and the resounding take home message for all of us was just how much is riding on the success of this project. For anyone who has not seen these infestations in the flesh it is hard to imagine just what a devastating impact they have on a locality. In the core of the infestation on Frank Teodo’s Edmonton property where sandy soils allow easy construction of nests they were simply everywhere. The entire surface of the earth was a continuous ant nest, every branch, every tree, every leaf was alive with ants.

In areas where they were thickest (along the edges of creeks and on branches crossing water) they formed an menacing orange hue. The water in the creek was the only place you could stand still and not have ants scale you as well. No lizards, no frogs, very few birds and the only insects visible where getting carried away by ants. The scene reminded me of an (early) Tarzan movie I saw as a kid with people pulling up camp running from a swarm of army ants. For me it triggered a response of recoil with a hint of primeval fear. It is almost impossible to imagine how you could live alongside YCA.

Travis Sydes FNQ Regional Organisation of Councils

Yellow crazy ant taskforce report

Published: 08th May 2014

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