The Wet Tropics Management Authority manages the Yellow Crazy Ant Eradication Program (YCAEP). Jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland Governments, the Authority aims to eradicate yellow crazy ant infestations from within and adjacent to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
The Wet Tropics Management Authority operates the Eradication Program on $6 million per year.
The Yellow Crazy Ant Eradication program is not the National Electric Ant Eradication Program. There are two invasive ant eradication programs in Cairns. For information on electric ants, visit Biosecurity Queensland's National Electric Ant Eradication Program website.
Have you seen yellow crazy ants? Please report any suspected sightings to the Wet Tropics Management Authority at YCA@wtma.qld.gov.au, or call 07 4241 0525.
Impacts of yellow crazy ants
Yellow crazy ants are especially devastating to native wildlife. In high numbers they reduce overall species diversity and abundance by displacing or killing native ant species, preying on arthropods, ground and arboreal vertebrates such as amphibians and birds.
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Uncontrolled spread of yellow crazy ants poses a significant threat to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, the oldest continuously surviving tropical rainforests on Earth.
There are more than 4,000 invertebrate species found in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Many occupy limited ranges and do not have effective strategies to defend against yellow crazy ants. Yellow crazy ants can also prey on small vertebrates such as frogs, lizards, and nestling birds. Animals that are too big for the ants to eat will be extirpated from the area due to the discomfort of having the ants constantly crawling on them.
Indirect impacts are precipitated through the removal of organisms low on the food chain and through disruption of critical processes such as pollination, seed dispersal and decomposition.
Yellow crazy ants' impact outside the World Heritage Area
Uncontrolled spread of yellow crazy ants also poses a significant threat to the community and to industry, and would result in major economic impacts on tourism, agriculture, property development, and local residents’ quality of life.
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Residential -- Yellow crazy ants in and around homes can significantly reduce residents’ quality of life and their ability to enjoy their home and land with family, friends, and pets. Yellow crazy ants spray formic acid when disturbed and can damage the eyes and soft tissue of cats, dogs and other pets. In heavy infestations, the ants will occupy the entire residential environment, swarming through lawns and gardens and invading houses. They have even been known to nest in electrical appliances and burn them out. Due to these substantial lifestyle impacts, yellow crazy ant infestations have the potential to reduce property values and deter new business and social investment in affected regions. For example, new developments such as the Mount Peter Master Planned Area could experience declines in property value if yellow crazy ants spread through the area.
Sugar Industry -- In high numbers, yellow crazy ants can reduce sugar yields in local cane farms. The ants farm honeydew-producing aphids and scale insects, protecting these pests from natural predators such as beetles and wasps. As a result, scale insect abundance increases in infestation areas. The scales' secretion of honeydew builds up on the leaves, creating a layer of sooty mould that restricts photosynthesis and results in a reduction in cane productivity.
Tourism Industry -- North Queensland's Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Areas are some of the world's most desirable and highly developed tourism destinations. Prior to COVID, the Cairns tourism industry generated $3.3B in revenue per year. As our tourism industry recovers from the lockdown-induced slump, it is particularly vulnerable to threatening processes that put at risk our World Heritage-listed rainforest and reef environments. Unchecked, yellow crazy ants could wreak havoc on the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, leaving our rainforests silent and empty. The uncontrolled spread of yellow crazy ants would seriously imperil our tourism industry, with flow-on impacts to our economy and community amenity.
About the Eradication Progam
YCAEP looks for and treats yellow crazy ant infestations with the aim to eradicate yellow crazy ants from the region. A large component of our work involves collaboration with community and industry to organise access to infestation areas, as well as raising awareness to both detect other areas of infestation and mitigate spread. Infestation areas have responded well to treatment and ant activity has been reduced significantly across the region. Much of our work now involves surveying treated infestation areas to confirm treatment success and looking outside of known infestation areas to find any remaining populations.
In a snapshot, we also:
engage James Cook University to undertake targeted research projects to improve our ant detection and treatment techniques.
establish and maintain partnerships and collaborate with a diverse group of stakeholders to implement the Eradication Program
provide advice and support to other pest and ant programs
monitor progress, adapt and learn, and apply innovative strategies to improve on-ground outcomes and efficiencies.
Why we do it
The Wet Tropics Management Authority is eradicating yellow crazy ants to protect the biodiversity and Outstanding Universal Values of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1988 for its natural values, the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area meets all four natural criteria for World Heritage listing. It is the largest area of remaining tropical rainforest in Australia and has the highest biodiversity of any region in Australia. Because of its unique concentration of endemic, rare and ancient species, the Area is ranked as the second most irreplaceable World Heritage Area on Earth.
The benefits of the Eradication Program are far-reaching and felt by many others in the Wet Tropics region. Unchecked spread of yellow crazy ants would not only imperil the precious Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, but also result in major economic impacts on tourism and agricultural industries, property development, and local residents’ quality of life. North Queensland residents are already benefiting from the investment in the Eradication Program, which has allowed affected businesses at risk of infestation to remain viable and has safeguarded residents’ lifestyle.
How we do it
We have developed a thorough evaluation process that guides decision-making for moving individual treatment areas from detection through to eradication. This process identifies five management phases divided into fourteen stages, from detection of an infestation to delimitation, treatment, surveillance, and finally the declaration of eradication.
Field teams conduct surveys using lure (a mixture of cat food and jam) to attract ants. The survey teams look for yellow crazy ants across targeted areas throughout the region, including rainforest, agricultural and residential areas. This survey data is mapped to track yellow crazy ant presence or absence across the landscape, predict potential movement pathways such as creek lines and dirt tracks used by machinery, and determine infestation boundaries. The Authority also uses odour detection dogs to sniff out small or low-density yellow crazy ant colonies, and sticky traps to survey in areas where conventional lure surveys are not suitable.
We treat yellow crazy ants using an insecticide bait. The Authority operates under a permit issued by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) that allows for the use of AntOff, fipronil ant bait, a fish meal-based pellet that includes 0.01g/kg of the insecticide Fipronil. This very small amount of the active ingredient poses no threat to larger vertebrate animals, including household pets and livestock.
Forested and agricultural areas are treated aerially by helicopter. Residential and riparian areas are hand treated by field staff to reduce the risk of the treatment entering waterways or environmentally sensitive areas. To ensure we don’t miss any yellow crazy ants with our treatment, a buffer zone is extended approximately 100 metres outside the edge of the area in which our field teams located yellow crazy ants during the surveys. As yellow crazy ant populations are reduced, infestation areas shrink, and bait application is reduced to spot treatments, limiting the need for aerial application.
Abriculture | Animal Control Technologies Australia | AWX | Biosecurity Queensland | Cairns and Far North Environment Centre| Cairns Regional Council | Canegrowers|Cassowary Coast Regional Council | Cook Shire Council | Credible Canines | CSIRO | Djabugay Bulmba Rangers | Douglas Shire Council | Dulabed and Malanbarra Yidinji Aboriginal Corporation | FNQ Regional Organisation of Councils | Fortress Developments | Gimuy Walubara Yidinji Elders Aboriginal Corporation | Heliservices Queensland | Hinchinbrook Shire Council | Intelliteq | Invasive Species Council | James Cook University | Kenfrost Homes | Kuranda Envirocare | MacKillop Catholic College | Mareeba Shire Council| MSF Sugar| NQ Land Management Services |Pioneer North Queensland| Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service & Partnerships| Tablelands Regional Council |Tourism Tropical North Queensland | Townsville City Council | Yellow Crazy Ant Community Taskforce | Zappala Raw Materials
Many thanks also go to the individual landholders, residents, Traditional Owners and industry workers who have assisted the Authority with its program. Successful eradication would not be possible without community support.