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Early detection key to invasive ant programme

Early detection key to invasive ant programme

“Early detection is key to the eradication and control of invasive ant species,” said Amelia Pascoe, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s (MAF) Programme Co-ordinator Exotic Animal Response.

This statement was made following the detection of a nest of tropical fire ants and two yellow crazy ant foragers at a container yard in Mount Maunganui over the last week.

The discoveries were made as part of MAF’s ongoing invasive ant programme. Ms Pascoe leads this programme which was started in March 2001 following the discovery of red imported fire ants at Auckland International Airport. The programme has been responsible for the early detection and control of a number of exotic ant species.

The invasive ant programme includes both surveillance and response capability and is supported by an invasive ant technical advisory group. Surveillance activity focuses on high risk areas such as international ports, transitional facilities, container yards and some nurseries. Ms Pascoe said that funding received during the recent budget round will be used to undertake an extensive invasive ant pest risk assessment.

“This assessment will identify the known invasive ant species around the world that pose the greatest risk to New Zealand’s environment, including the risk of entry to and likelihood of establishment in New Zealand. The results of this assessment will be used to develop and refine biosecurity measures for preventing entry and establishment of exotic invasive ants into New Zealand,” she said.

Monitoring around sites where exotic ants have been found is ongoing and MAF Incursion Investigators rapidly respond to any new signs of activity. Generally a site has to be free of ants for two years before MAF can be confident that the ants have been eradicated.

Invasive ants have the potential to compete with and predate upon our native species. Some ants also are of a public health significance. A list of the exotic ants and related health advice found under the invasive ant programme can be found at: http://www.maf.govt.nz/mafnet/press/exotic�ants.htm

If anyone notices any unusual ant activity around their work places or homes please contact the MAF Exotic Disease and Pest Hotline on 0800 809 966.

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