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African big head ant eradication on Lord Howe Island

African big-head antNorth Coast Local Land Services has provided funding to the Lord Howe Island Board to assist with the eradication of one of the world's 100 worst invasive species, the African big-headed ant. 

It is thought this ant was introduced to Lord Howe Island in 1993 in building materials transported from mainland Australia.

This important project aims to protect the World Heritage values of the Island as African big-headed ants are a serious threat to the Island's biodiversity through its aggression and displacement of native invertebrate fauna which are important for ecosystem functioning.

The African big-headed ant (Pheidole megacephala) is recognised as among the world's 100 worst invasive species by the United Nations Invasive Species Specialist Group and is subject to a threat abatement plan to reduce the impact of tramp ants under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

An eradication strategy was prepared by the Lord Howe Island Board in consultation with the CSIRO who also trained Lord Howe Island Board staff in the methodology to ensure consistency with surveys and treatment.

Since March 2012, the Lord Howe Island Board have surveyed  approximately 350 hectares with known or potential African big-headed ant infestations with 30 hectares or 6% of the survey area containing infestations.

Funding has allowed training and employment of local people to undertake monitoring and targeted treatment of African big-headed ant across the Island's infestation areas. Using approximately 174,000 lures, 50 hectares (14%) of the total surveyed area was treated for African big-headed ant, including a 20 metre buffer around each infestation.

Monitoring has shown that eradication has been achieved throughout most of the treated areas, thereby allowing these areas to undergo natural restoration.

The eradication program is expected to run for a further 2-3 years, including a minimum of 2 years following the final detection and is funded through the Australian Government's Caring for Our Country program.

Media contact:          Geoff Le Messurier, Senior Land Services Officer
                                            Phone 6653 6717

Photo caption: The African big-headed ant (Pheidole megacephala) Image supplied by antweb.org