The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is working with logistics and commercial businesses in the Perth metropolitan area to eradicate the invasive pest, African black sugar ant (Lepisiota incisa).
This is the first time the African black sugar ant has been detected in Australia, which is known to be an aggressive species that could threaten Australia’s native flora and fauna.
DPIRD detected the ant in seven locations along a freight corridor between North Fremantle and Forrestfield, as part of a national browsing ant and red imported fire ant surveillance program.
The department is working with the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment to undertake surveillance, tracing and treatment activities to manage the risk of the ant spreading.
DPIRD technical manager John van Schagen said several infested sites had been treated and movement restrictions were in place for commercial businesses in high risk locations.
“Surveillance at the commercial property where the initial detection was made identified a nest with two queens in a large pile of green waste material, which has since been treated and removed,” he said.
“Further activities and treatment are now underway to contain and eradicate the pest at all the remaining infested sites.
“African black sugar ants have the ability to rapidly form super colonies by establishing interconnected nests with collaborative egg laying queens so it is important to take action to ensure an effective response.”
The response is underpinned by an agreement by the National Biosecurity Management Group that the African black sugar ant is a nationally significant pest that is technically feasible and cost beneficial to eradicate from Australia.
The detections have triggered a national cost-shared response to eradicate the pest.
Mr van Schagen said while the winter weather had reduced the ant’s activity, it was important that any sightings of unusual ants be reported to DPIRD.
“African black ants are shiny dark brown in colour, about two to three millimetres in length, and often appear in high numbers,” he said.
“The species is known to occupy bushland habitats and has a voracious appetite, which can include plastic, other insects and small vertebrates.
“When the weather warms up, we encourage people in the Forrestfield, Welshpool, North Fremantle, Wattleup and Maddington areas, in particular, to report any ant sightings to DPIRD so our scientists can make an expert diagnosis.”
Ant samples can also be sent to Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, 3 Baron-Hay Court, South Perth, WA, 6151.
Megan Broad/Katrina Bowers, media liaison
+61 (0)8 9368 3937