News & Media

Eradicating and controlling invasive pests on Christmas and Cocos-Keeling Islands

Released on

Released on:
Thursday, 4. July 2019 - 11:45

With the support of Australian Government funding, Western Australia’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has made substantial progress managing two of the world’s most serious invasive weeds of agriculture in the Indian Ocean Territories.

Representatives from DPIRD will be visiting again in July to continue this critical work.

Control of the Parthenium weed has been undertaken continuously since 2008 and is on track for eradication on Christmas Island.

Management of Siam weed has been undertaken since 2010 and has almost been eliminated from the Cocos (Keeling) Islands’ Home Island, and freed from roads and settlements.

As part of this eradication program, DPIRD is providing ongoing entomology expertise to the Christmas and Cocos-Keeling Islands as part of broader biosecurity control activities for invasive insect pests and weeds.

This support is vital to protect social amenity, agricultural development, tourism, and the unique and internationally renowned natural environment.

These services provided by DPIRD to the Indian Ocean Territories are fully funded by the Australian Government through the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development’s Territories Division.

From 9 to 23 July, DPIRD entomologist Marc Widmer will be joined by invasive species consultant Peter Davis and Murdoch University PhD candidate John-Michael Stuart to research more effective control measures and study the seasonal behaviour of Macao paper wasp, drywood and subterranean termites, and tropical fire and yellow crazy ants.

Mr Widmer said the visits usually focussed on the control of Macao paper wasp, a large aggressive wasp with a painful sting, which was first discovered on the Cocos-Keeling Islands in 2015.

“More than 2,500 nests, some with up to 600 wasps, have been destroyed as part of the containment program, to improve liveability and community safety and reduce environmental impacts,” Mr Widmer said.

“We are also working to control the exotic declared drywood and subterranean termite species which cause serious damage to properties and infrastructure. This will in part be achieved by investigating the installation of fumigation and heat treatment disinfestation facilities for the Islands to treat host materials prior to transport.”

DPIRD is also targeting yellow crazy ants which are a threat to Christmas Island’s world renowned red crabs and tropical fire ants, which can have a major horticultural and environmental impact.

DPIRD entomologist Marc Widmer helps find and destroy Macao paper wasp nests on the Indian Ocean Territories, as part of an ongoing containment program.
DPIRD entomologist Marc Widmer helps find and destroy Macao paper wasp nests on the Indian Ocean Territories, as part of an ongoing containment program.
Exotic drywood termites, Cryptotermes dudleyi, discovered by DPIRD entomologist Marc Widmer, can cause serious damage to wooden structures if undetected.
Exotic drywood termites, Cryptotermes dudleyi, discovered by DPIRD entomologist Marc Widmer, can cause serious damage to wooden structures if undetected.


DPIRD media contacts: Jodie Thomson / Dionne Tindale, DPIRD Media Liaison, +61 (0)8 9368 3937

Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development media contact: 1300 732 749