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Eradication of the African big headed ant from Lord Howe Island continues

North 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.

This project is supported by North Coast Local Land Services, through funding from the National Landcare Programme and the NSW Government’s Catchment Action NSW.

Monitoring, mapping and treatment of infestations of the pest ant have been undertaken since April 2012 and CSIRO ant eradication specialist, Dr Ben Hoffmann, has been visiting the Island since then.

With ongoing funding from North Coast Local Land Services, all known or potential African big headed ant infestations across the island are being monitored and, where detected, treated in accordance with the adopted eradication methodology. Funding has also enabled Dr Hoffman conducting a biosecurity inspection of the Port Macquarie wharf facility to identify any potential biosecurity risks related to invasive ants.

The 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 190,000 lures, 55 hectares or 15% of the total surveyed area of 350 Ha was treated for African big-headed ant, including a 20 metre buffer around each infestation.

Two leases contained the last known untreated infestation of African big-headed ant on the Island which were treated in April 2016. No other infestations have been detected during ongoing monitoring of all other formally treated sites, indicating that the methodology is delivering the desired eradication outcomes. All known infestations have now been mapped and treated as required.

Media contact:           Geoff LeMessurier, Senior Land Services Officer  Phone 6563 6717

Photo captions:         The African big head ant and tThe Lord Howe Island team conducting monitoring