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Species Of Crazy Ant Found At Auckland Port

19 April 2002

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) has today confirmed that two tropical species of ants known as Crazy Ants have been found on wharves at Auckland port.

The ants have been intercepted as a direct result of the intensive surveillance programme which commenced earlier this year to ensure that the potentially more dangerous Fire Ants are not present in New Zealand.

"MAF's Fire Ant surveillance programme has ensured that we are able to identify 100% of suspect exotic ant finds and this process is extremely thorough. It is hugely encouraging that to date no Fire Ants have been found and the fact that we have a new find on our hands goes to show how valuable this surveillance is," says Amelia Pascoe, MAF's Programme Coordinator for Exotic Animal Response.

MAF's Reference Laboratory in Auckland have confirmed the tropical ants as the Crazy Ant (Paratrechina longicornis) and the Yellow Crazy Ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes).

These ants are known as Crazy Ants because of their characteristic rapid and erratic movement. The worker ants have extremely long legs, making them relatively easy to identify. The Yellow Crazy Ant, in particular is a major environmental pest. Both species of Crazy Ant are human nuisance pests. Worker ants feed on a wide variety of food types includeing seeds, honey-dew, fruits, other plant materials and household foods.

Searches at the wharves at Auckland port have shown limited infestations restricted to the edges of one wharf and an isolated smaller find which is restricted to an adjacent wharf area.

Initial treatment of the infestations to kill the ants began immediately and was continuing today. Ongoing monitoring will be set up to confirm treatment success.

"As with all finds of this kind our initial response has been to determine how far the ant has spread and to act swiftly to exterminate the pest," says Ms Pascoe.

"There are two important factors with this find. The first is that it has occurred within a port facility where containers and other recently imported goods are stored prior to being given biosecurity clearance. The level of regulation and protection at these port areas is extremely high and follows strict MAF border management standards.

"The second is that this area has been subject to intensive searching and baiting for ants over the last two to three months. This gives us some confidence that the ants have not been present for a long period of time. Early interception is always an important factor for successful containment and eradication.

"We are very appreciative of the cooperation we are constantly receiving from the Ports of Auckland Limited. The good working relationship MAF has with the ports and importers is vital to protecting New Zealand from exotic pests and diseases.

MAF is working with its allied biosecurity agencies, the Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Health, to further develop and assess its initial response to the interception of Crazy Ants.

Additional information and updates will be available on the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry website at www.maf.govt.nz/crazy-ants from Monday 22 April

For more information on the Fire Ant surveillance programme, including information about the Exotic Disease and Pest Emergency Hotline (0800 809 966) go to www.maf.govt.nz/fire-ants

The Protect New Zealand website address is www.protectnz.org.nz

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