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Squash and sniff test needed to identify ants

Monday 20 December 2004

Squash and sniff test needed to identify ants

Department of Conservation (DOC) staff are delighted at the public response to recent publicity about Argentine Ants but are asking Christchurch residents to do the squash and sniff test before ringing them with suspected sightings.

The Canterbury Conservancy has received more than 60 calls about bothersome ants but most have so far been Darwin’s Ants and not the Argentine variety.

DOC ranger Helen McCaughan said, “before contacting us people need to squash a few of the ants in their hand or on a tissue and smell them. Darwin’s Ants have an unmistakeably pungent smell, whereas Argentine Ants are odourless.”

Both Darwin’s Ants and Argentine Ants are a honey-brown colour, distinguishing them from Christchurch’s less invasive black ants.

The recent publicity campaign has also resulted in the discovery of white-footed house ants ( Technomyrmex albipes) in Halswell and Waltham. Previously this invader had been recorded only at a few locations in Christchurch. A forceps ant ( Iridomyrmex anceps) was also collected in Merivale. This ant had previously been found near Christchurch airport.

“The real problem ant though, the Argentine, is still the one we really want to find but just ask that everyone does the squash test first,” Ms McCaughan said. “While Darwin’s Ants can be treated with a variety of ant baits, householders should seek professional help to get rid of Argentine Ants,” she said. “Most insecticides will make Argentine Ant nests disperse and the ants multiply more rapidly.”

Argentine Ants have been found in three Christchurch locations. This summer, the Department of Conservation, Environment Canterbury and Christchurch City Council are working together to eliminate the remains of known colonies and identify any other Argentine Ant locations in the city.

Good places to check for Argentine Ants include under pot plants and outdoor equipment, specially for anyone who has recently moved to Christchurch from the North Island.

Department of Conservation entomologist Alison Evans said, “The Argentine Ant is a threat to biodiversity as well as being a household pest. They can make their way into plastic containers, cupboards, cellars and even fridges. In gardens they can displace native insects and will attack nesting birds as well as compete with other nectar eaters.”

“We are particularly concerned about the effects that this insect could have on the ecology of places such as Banks Peninsula and Riccarton Bush,” she said.

To report a suspected Argentine Ant sighting call the Department of Conservation on 379- 9758.

ENDS


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