Invasive ant researcher Dr Lori Lach has welcomed the commitments from both major parties to support the eradication of yellow crazy ants, as well as more immediate support in the form of a substantial community-funded grant for research into the acid-spraying pests.
Dr Lach, based at James Cook University in Cairns, is currently investigating the effectiveness of attempts to combat the ants’ spread in two areas of infestation – in Russett Park near Kuranda, and in Edmonton.
Kuranda Envirocare has awarded Dr Lach a $20,000 grant to support her research.
“For a community group to raise these funds is really impressive. It’s already making a difference because it’s come at just the right time,” she said.
The infestations were recently treated with an insect growth regulator, with the aim of disrupting the ants’ reproductive cycle and development.
“We need to get a good look at these colonies, to see whether the queens are still laying eggs, and whether the growth regulator is arresting the development of larvae. We also want to dissect queens so we can check on the health of their ovaries,” Dr Lach said.
“We recognized the urgent need for immediate action,” Kuranda Envirocare President Cathy Retter said.
“We’re very pleased to provide this grant, which comprises $5,000 raised by crowd funding, $5,000 from the Kuranda Media Association who matched the community fundraising dollar for dollar, and $10,000 from Kuranda Envirocare.”
Dr Lach is luring the dangerous ants by offering them dry, dark and roomy pre-fab accommodation.
The research team and Envirocare volunteers are placing segments of bamboo, gathered and cut by Green Army members, into suitable habitat at each site.
“Yellow crazy ants are not all that picky about where they nest – we find them in discarded soda cans, under palm fronds and rocks. It’s probably more about having the right moisture and proximity to food sources. When they nest in our bamboo pieces they make our job much easier,” Dr Lach said.
“Digging up a yellow crazy ant nest in soil and sifting through it for ants and their brood is laborious and time consuming, but this way we get the ants to do most of the legwork. We can just pick up occupied bamboo pieces and bring them back to the lab.”
Dr Lach said the community funding initiative was an indication of how seriously local people took the threat of yellow crazy ants.
“It’s a real pleasure and privilege to work with such an engaged and committed group,” she said.
Yellow crazy ants were first detected in Edmonton in 2001, and in Russett Park near Kuranda in 2013. The omnivorous, aggressive, acid-spraying ants are highly successful invaders and pose a threat to wildlife, livestock and humans.
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