Yellow crazy ants found on Hamilton Island, two years after first being identified in the Whitsundays | Ralph-Lauren

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They’re an invasive species capable of decimating native wildlife, blinding animals and people by spitting formic acid, and damaging agriculture. 

And now, yellow crazy ants have now been found on Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays. 

Earlier this year, the Whitsunday Regional Council and Hamilton Island Enterprise conducted an investigation where they identified eight and a half hectares of infested land on the privately owned resort island. 

Scott Hardy, the coordinator of natural resource management and climate at the Whitsunday Regional Council has been tackling yellow crazy ants since they were first identified on the mainland two years ago. 

Looking out from a height over a beach, with buildings and mountains in the horizon.
The Whitsunday Regional Council has been working to eradicate yellow crazy ants before they spread to the Whitsunday Island but now they’ve been found on Hamilton Island. (

ABC Tropical North: Melissa Maddison

)

“Most of it [the infestation] is in bushland and behind an old, disused quarry.” 

In a statement, a spokesperson for Hamilton Island said since the discovery of a local infestation on the mainland, staff had been monitoring for evidence of an outbreak on the island. 

“The colony is well away from any public-facing areas on the Island; confined to an area around the Island’s concrete batching plant and waste management facility,” the spokesperson said. 

“Given the colony’s location, the ants may have been introduced via sand delivered to the batching plant or via an empty rubbish skip, brought over from Shute Harbour where authorities are working to control a known infestation.”

Spreading into the Whitsundays

The invasive species, originally from Africa, was found at Shute Harbour, near Airlie Beach in May 2019. 

Whitsunday Regional Council, along with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Biosecurity Queensland have been working to eradicate the infestation, which spread throughout the harbour car park and Conway Conservation Park, through using aerial baiting. 

Yellow crazy ant
The ants, which have been identified in parts of northern Australia, are one of the worst invasive species in the world. (

Supplied: Phil Lester

)

“In April we had a report from a contractor that he may have found yellow crazy ants on Hamilton Island,” Mr Hardy said. 

Due to the ongoing reconstruction work on the resort island following Cyclone Debbie in 2017, workers transit through Shute Harbour, where the first infestation was found. 

“But we’re trying to help out with some advice, and try and access some funding to try and help them out with the cost, and we’re working with CSIRO on some advice for Hamilton Island as well.’

Hamilton Island Enterprise has begun a pest management plan with hopes to eradicate the species from the island.

“We are in the middle of deploying an integrated treatment plan. So far it is showing very promising results, and we’ve seen a massive reduction in the colony,” the statement said. 

“We anticipate that upon conclusion of that plan later in 2021, we will be free of the infestation.” 

Unwelcome milestone

This is not the first Australian island yellow crazy ants have been found on. 

The ants, which can form ‘super colonies’ when in large densities, are considered one of the world’s top 100 most invasive species. 

If unmanaged, the colonies can be devastating, preying on small native wildlife such as frogs and ground-dwelling birds and able to spray a formic acid capable of temporarily blinding humans. 

In the Indian Ocean, about 40 million of Christmas Island’s famous red crabs have been decimated by the ants since the early 1990s.

The Hamilton Island spokesperson said that even when the island was free of the infestation,  the company would need to continue to be vigilant in its monitoring and management to avoid further recurrences. 



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