Removing Big-headed Ants from Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island is free of invasive African big-headed ants thanks to a dedicated and intensive effort to scour the island and remove every remaining ant.

Lord Howe Island, located off the coast of New South Wales is home to a wide array of endemic and sometimes strange species. One of the islands best-known species is the Lord Howe Stick Insect which was driven locally extinct on Lord Howe Island by invasive rats, but in recent years was discovered on an offshore islet. Invasive rats are not the only introduced species to cause a problem on Lord Howe. The African big-headed ant was introduced unintentionally to the island as a seemingly innocuous hitchhiker but quickly became a serious environmental problem.

In 2003, conservationists first detected the invasive ant and due to its standing as one of the top 100 worst pests in the world, they quickly jumped into action. On Lord Howe Island, the species built supercolonies, damaged native landscapes, and damaged buildings. Their rapid spread across the island made tracking and removing every last ant a difficult task.


A team of researchers and local residence scour Lord Howe Island for the invasive African big-headed ants. Credit: CSIRO

To find where all the ants were living, the team set up almost 200,000 lures all around the island and used canned pet food as bait. Then, using the data they collected, they were able to target their removal efforts to effectively remove the invasive ants.

Three years later, the island was declared free of invasive African big-headed ants. Now, conservationists have moved on to removing invasive rats from Lord Howe Island while ensuring the island remains free of invasive ants.

Featured photo: Mt. Eliza on Lord Howe Island. Credit: Robert Whyte
Source: CSIRO

About Emily Heber

Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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