Yellow Crazy Ant

Current situation

26 September 2018

NSW DPI is currently responding to reports of yellow crazy ant found in the Lismore region in May 2018. Ongoing surveillance has identified several smaller infestations in outlying areas which are currently being treated.

Yellow crazy ants, although not a direct threat to humans, are listed as prohibited matter under the Biosecurity Act 2015 as they are a serious environmental pest which pose a risk to our economy, environment and communities.

Yellow crazy ants are highly invasive and can build super colonies and devastate local flora and fauna and impact on agricultural production and the horticultural industry.

The yellow crazy ant infestation in the North Coast Local Land Services (LLS) region is serious and classified as a prohibited matter event under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

The provisions of the Act include a duty to notify NSW DPI if you become aware of, or suspect the presence of yellow crazy ants.

We are working hard to stop the spread and eradicate Yellow Crazy Ant in NSW and we need your help.

Biosecurity is a shared responsibility. Our economy, environment, health and social amenity are all dependant on our biosecurity measures and these measures can be strengthened with support from the entire community. We all have a role to play in minimising biosecurity threats.

Remember - the sooner we know about an infestation, the sooner we are able to put in place measures to contain and eradicate yellow crazy ant.

Extensive surveillance in the local area is underway. Biosecurity officers have started treatment of the Yellow Crazy Ant infestations and NSW DPI and LLS are leading the surveillance and eradication efforts supported by Lismore City Council and Rous County Council and community groups including LandCare.

Moving soil and vegetation is now restricted

Yellow crazy ant can be spread with the movement of plants and soil. While the ants themselves spread relatively slowly, it is critical that the community works hard to prevent these pests from spreading by hitchhiking on garden materials, soil and with people and their belongings

To help us prevent the spread of yellow crazy ant, NSW DPI has put movement restrictions in place, preventing the carrying of vegetative matter and soil within a 5km radius of the Lismore CBD.  For more information, please refer to the General Biosecurity Direction (GBD).

Individual or General Biosecurity Directions are being given to infested properties. Any movement of yellow crazy ant material off these properties require a permit.

People within the 5km area (other than infested properties) are now only required to satisfy an online risk assessment by submitting a risk assessment and notification declaration form to move yellow crazy ant materials.

High risk businesses within the 5km area, or businesses identified by NSW DPI as high risk will require a Biosecurity Permit to move yellow crazy ant material.

Yellow crazy ant materials moved directly to the Lismore Recycling & Recovery Centre 313 Wyrallah Road East Lismore NSW 2480 are exempt from the above requirements.

Penalties apply to people breaking these restrictions.

The restrictions apply until the end of December 2018.

Map - Movement Control Zone

Yellow Crazy Ant Movement Control Zone around Lismore NSW in May 2018

We need your help

You can help stop the spread of Yellow Crazy Ant by:

  • Following the movement control rules.
  • Check your belongings before you leave the movement control zone and make sure you aren’t carrying an unwanted hitch-hiker.
  • Regularly inspect your property for any sign of ants or nests and report any suspicious sightings immediately.
  • Do not disturb the ants or nests or try to treat the infestation yourself as the ants will likely move location.
  • Report what you find
    • Report nil sightings: Tell us if you don’t find any yellow crazy ants - that way we know the areas that have been checked.
    • Report suspicious sightings immediately: Tell us if you suspect the presence of yellow crazy ant, even if you are unsure or think we may already know about the infestation.

Follow the requirements of our biosecurity controls outlined in the General Biosecurity Direction. This means not moving certain things such as vegetation, plant matter or soil except in accordance with strict rules outlined in the GBD.

How to spot a Yellow Crazy Ant

Yellow Crazy Ant is recognised by their pale yellow body colour, unusually long legs and antennae. The name 'crazy ant’ is derived from their frantic movements and frequent changes in direction, especially when disturbed.

Yellow Crazy Ants form super colonies with several queens and once a super colony is established, it can expand rapidly, in some cases doubling in size in 12 months.

Yellow Crazy Ant

Treatment

In order to effectively eradicate the ant, NSW DPI and its partners need to apply bait in and around the Lismore CBD and directly treat known nests. Care will be taken to ensure safe application of the baits and treatments.

NSW DPI, Local Land Services and Council have identified strategic areas to treat the ant colony using the following methods:

  • Ground searching
  • Educating the community to check for and report suspicious ants. Avoiding the further spread (eg. by moving soil) is essential.
  • In order to effectively eradicate the ant, NSW DPI and its partners need to apply bait in and around the Lismore CBD and directly treat known nests and immediate area around the nest.
  • Care will be taken to ensure best practice application of the baits, following conditions approved by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.
  • Expert advice has also sought from Biosecurity Queensland who have extensive experience in applying ant baits.
  • The best method for destroying YCA colonies is by using the broad-spectrum Granular insecticide, Fipronil.  This is more commonly used on ants including Yellow Crazy Ant.
  • The team applying the baits will generally target vegetated areas so the baits will not be washed away. Hard surfaced areas will be avoided however the baits may be applied to surfaces where there are cracks that will contain the product and prevent it from being washed away.

Fipronil is specifically designed to target invertebrate animals (animals without backbones)  This product has been tested extensively and there is no evidence that Fipronil is harmful to humans.

The application method used, and the low-strength formulation chosen, present very low risk to non-target species.

Fipronil is not well absorbed by plants and is broken down by sunlight.

As part of the permit conditions the baits will not be placed near waterways or storm water drains.

The yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) is a highly invasive exotic pest that can build super colonies and seriously impact local fauna, agricultural production and ecosystems.

Unchecked, it poses a serious economic and environmental threat, so it is important that we prevent it taking hold in NSW.

Yellow crazy ants were found at various sites in Lismore CBD in May 2018. Ongoing surveillance by the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Local Land Services has identified several smaller infestations in outlying areas which are currently being treated.

The exact source of the infestation is speculative and we may never know how yellow crazy ant came to Lismore.

Yellow crazy ant tends to walk rather than fly and are generally very slow in expanding their range by themselves.

However, they can hitchhike in organic materials, or on people’s belongings, resulting in the infestation spreading. This is why it is critical for people to be aware and check for yellow crazy ant before moving equipment and materials.

When they achieve great enough numbers they are known to kill small animals. Although they do not sting, they squirt formic acid into the eyes of the prey which blinds the animal and they starve. The ants also tend to sap sucking insects which impact vegetation. This can change the composition of the vegetation in native forests.

Department of Primary Industries and Local Land Services have prepared a strategic surveillance plan which has several elements:

  • Responding to community reports to identify suspect YCA,
  • Inspection and monitoring of high risk businesses,
  • Inspection of properties in key areas upstream of Lismore and in flood deposition areas downstream of Lismore.
  • Strategic sampling and luring program within 10km of Lismore and
  • A school surveillance and education program to enlist the help of students in the greater Lismore region.

NSW Department of Primary Industries is undertaking a targeted luring and baiting program to eradicate the ants, with follow up treatments to ensure all ants have been removed. For more information, please visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/yca

You can help stop the spread of yellow crazy ant by:

  • Following the movement control rules.
  • Check your belongings before you leave the movement control zone and make sure you aren’t carrying an unwanted hitch-hiker.
  • Regularly inspect your property for any sign of ants or nests.
  • Do not disturb the ants or nests or try to treat the infestation yourself as the ants will likely move location.
  • Report nil sightings. Tell us if you don’t find any yellow crazy ants - that way we know the areas that have been checked.
  • Report suspicious sightings immediately even if you are unsure or think we may already know about the infestation.

The ant nests are not obvious and are therefore hard to spot.  As such, we do not have pictures of the ant nests but the best place to look for Yellow Crazy Ant is on the trunks of trees because they harvest sap sucking insects in the trees.

The Yellow Crazy Ant can be identified as follows:

  • Yellow to brownish ant with body about 5mm long.
  • Abdomen is dark brown, sometimes striped.
  • Legs and antennae are very long.
  • Body is long and slender.
  • Walking style is erratic.
  • May spray formic acid when disturbed

Online: www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/antreport

Phone: Biosecurity Hotline 1800 680 244

In Person: To Local Lands Services

A sample or photo of the ant will help with identification.

Do the movement restrictions apply to me?

The restrictions apply for four months, until the end of September 2018. The boundaries of the restricted area are outlined on the attached map. For movement restriction updates, please visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/yca

What do they mean in practice?

Movement restrictions are in place, preventing the carrying of vegetative matter and soil within a 5km radius of the Lismore CBD.

Individual or General Biosecurity Directions are being given to infested properties. Any movement of yellow crazy ant material off these properties requires a permit.

People within the 5km area (other than infested properties) are now only required to satisfy an online risk assessment and submit a movement notification to move yellow crazy ant materials.

High risk businesses within the 5km area, or businesses identified by NSW DPI as high risk will require a Biosecurity Permit to move yellow crazy ant material. Yellow crazy ant materials moved directly to the Lismore Recycling and Recovery Centre 313 Wyrallah Road East Lismore NSW 2480 are exempt from the above requirements.

How do businesses continue to operate if they move restricted material?

People needing to move these materials can apply for a permit to move restricted material by completing the permit application at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/yca

Does the restriction include food waste?

No. The restrictions won’t include food waste.

Are grass clippings restricted?

Mowers and mowing equipment should be cleaned before being moved outside the restricted zone. The grass clippings can be taken to the waste depot after being inspected for yellow crazy ant.

Are bin and rubbish collections restricted?

The Lismore Recycling and Recovery Centre will be exempted from the restrictions, and appropriate mitigation put in place on site following a risk assessment. Residents are encouraged to continue to use the centre as normal.

Can I take mulch and other material into the zone?

Yes. Garden materials, including mulch, plants, and other organic matter can be moved into the restricted zone.

Can I undertake building works within the restricted zone?

People within the restricted zone will be subject to movement restrictions covering soil, green waste and organic materials. However there will be a permit process in place to allow restricted movements of these materials when needed.

This shouldn’t prevent construction certificates being issued.

Can I park on grassed areas?

It would help prevent the movement of ants if people did not park cars on grassed areas within the restricted zone. You may see Lismore Council officers or notifications giving direction on this issue.

Can machinery and equipment be removed from the zone?

Machines that move and shift soil or vegetation will need to be cleaned and free of material before being moved.

I’m staying at the caravan park, am I affected?

No. The restriction is not expected to impact the movement of vehicles or caravans, although we encourage you to check your vehicle and belongings before leaving the restricted zone.

Will the restricted zone be changed at all?

The restricted zone will be reassessed as required to take into account any newly discovered colonies.

Surveillance activity is ongoing and we are encouraging people outside the restricted zone to report any suspected sightings of yellow crazy ant.

Will community and sporting events continue?

Community and sporting events are not affected and can continue as normal.

Residents are reminded that ants can hitchhike on personal belongings and equipment so please inspect your gear before leaving the restricted zone.

What do I do if I find ants on my belongings?

Brush down your belongings and ensure they are free of ants before leaving the restricted zone.