Invasive species of ant eradicated from Lord Howe Island

By Australian Geographic 7 November 2018
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A six year project to rid the Island of African big-headed ants has been successful.

Lord Howe Island, a UNESCO World Heritage listed site, is officially free of African big-headed ants, the world’s first successful eradication of the ants on an oceanic island.

Scientists from the CSIRO began the six year project to eradicate the ants back in 2012 after the Lord Howe Island Board requested their assistance.

The African big-headed ant is considered to be one of the world’s biggest pests as they grow in extraordinary numbers and eventually out compete native fauna.

In Hawaii, the aggressive ants have attacked the eyes and bills of native seabirds, resulting in the birds flying away and leaving their nests. The ants also caused the extinction of some native Hawaiian species.

Scientists were particularly concerned about the impact the ants were having on the Lord Howe seabirds and the island’s iconic stick insects. However, by using ant baits, the scientists were able to begin ridding the island of the pest before the any damage became fatal.

“Once we were able to establish the right method for eradication, we were able to eradicate this invasive ant within three years,” said ant expert Ben Hoffmann from the CSIRO.

“The eradication technique we developed can be used for other species of invasive ants, and we’re hoping to use it again in other areas of priority across Australia.”

The ants, however, aren’t the only invasive species causing trouble on Lord Howe Island. There are currently projects to eradicate 60 invasive weed species and a program to rid the island of rats and mice is set to begin in 2019.