island-conservation-yellow-crazy-ants-christmas island-feat

The Final Sting of Yellow Crazy Ants

New Zealand works to protect native species on Pacific Island from the invasive Yellow Crazy Ants–the true challenge lies in removing the very last one.

Have you ever been bitten or stung by an ant? If the answer is yes, then you might remember it as a rather unpleasant or at least irritating experience. Depending on the species of ant the pain can vary drastically. Yellow Crazy Ants have a particularly attack method–they spray formic acid to subdue prey.

A single Yellow Crazy Ant might look harmless but often the species travels in a swarm, which causes significant damage when they are introduced to island ecosystems. Having been accidentally introduced to several islands, including Hawaii and many Pacific islands, Yellow Crazy Ants have become well known in recent years as an invasive species that can be particularly difficult to control.

island conservation yellow crazy ant christmas island crab

The introduction of Yellow Crazy Ants to Christmas Island, Australia decimated populations of Christmas Island Red Crab. Credit: Rebecca Dominguez

In recent years, a New Zealand based non-profit has been pursuing an eradication plan to protect native species on Pacific islands from the harmful invasive Yellow Crazy Ant. Dr. Monica Gruber, a program manager for Pacific Biosecurity, the non-profit based out of Victoria University commented:

Despite the huge impact of these pests, communities weren’t able to do anything to manage the ant populations because they couldn’t afford pesticides or other methods of ant control.

Again, a colony of ants might seem harmless to some, but their very painful sting is no small matter. The ants release formic acid which allows them to swarm and kill an animal up to 500 times their size. Conservation efforts appear to be helping on the islands Gruber explained:

We are delighted to report that we have significantly reduced ant numbers so that they are no longer causing problems.

Controlling the population of Yellow Crazy Ants in the Pacific is just the beginning for Pacific Biosecurity. Next, researchers will need to figure out the best way to completely remove the final Yellow Crazy Ant from an island–hopefully without getting stung themselves.

Featured photo: Atafu Atoll. Credit: NASA Johnson
NZ Herald

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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