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Nationwide Surveillance For Fire Ants

Nationwide Surveillance For Fire Ants Enters Second Month

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's surveillance programme for gathering information to confirm Fire Ants have not gained entry to New Zealand is now into its second month - with the good news being there have been no finds of Fire Ant nests.

Amelia Pascoe, MAF Biosecurity programme coordinator, says the programme is targeted at New Zealand's international ports of entry and surrounding land. It follows an isolated find of a single Fire Ants nest made at Auckland International Airport in February last year (2001). The nest was destroyed and intensive searches carried out around the nest site. In addition a publicity campaign was completed which targeted up to 95,000 household addresses within the at-risk area. (For further details see www.maf.govt.nz/fire-ants)

"The aim of the current surveillance programme is to confirm there are no further finds of Fire Ants at the known incursion site and to ensure Fire Ants have not entered New Zealand at high risk entry points," " says Ms Pascoe.

Targeted areas include international airports and seaports, sites where containers are unpacked and garden centres. The programme includes visual surveillance and laying baited ground traps. The progamme is taking place at the following locations: Whangarei, Auckland, Whenuapai, Onehunga, Tauranga, Napier, New Plymouth, Ohakea and Wellington in the North Island; and Nelson, Picton, Christchurch and Lyttelton in the South Island.

"The first thing we do is identify risk areas where Fire Ants might be present. Then our teams undertake detailed ground surveys which are cross-referenced to a mapping system," says AgriQuality operations manager Lester Mattson. AgriQuality has been contracted by MAF to undertake field operations.

"We have received excellent cooperation at all of the locations where surveillance is taking place. The first round of surveillance has been completed in February and will be followed by a second round of surveillance and publicity during March. Where there are any doubts as to the species of ant found during surveillance, samples are sent to a laboratory for identification. To date no Fire Ants have been identified," says Mr Mattson.

Ends


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