Sniffing out NT’s ant menace

Browsing ants were first found in the NT three years ago. Picture: NT Government.
Browsing ants were first found in the NT three years ago. Picture: NT Government.

Odour detection dog Willow is back in Darwin to help eradicate browsing ants and protect the Territory’s agricultural jobs.

Last year the NT Government entered a joint initiative with the Australian and Queensland Governments to tackle the invasive pest – browsing ants eat other ants and displace native species.

Willow’s latest visit is part of the National Browsing Ant Eradication Program, which is funded through the National Biosecurity Management Group made up of all State and Territory Governments, plus the Australian Government.

The National Biosecurity Management Group has now committed $4.68 million to eradicate browsing ants from the Territory by mid-2021.

Browsing ants were first detected in the NT in the Darwin Port area in 2015.

On examination, 20 properties in the Darwin region were found to have infestations.

All known infestations have now been treated and placed under surveillance for six months. Willow will help confirm the properties remain browsing ant free.

If you think you have spotted a browsing ant population, contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Minister for Primary Industry and Resources, Ken Vowles said: “As well as creating jobs, the Government is protecting the jobs we already have.

“Our agricultural sector is worth $500 million and employs hundreds of Territorians, so it is vital we do all we can to eradicate pests that could jeopardise the success of the industry.

“We have been working on eradicating browsing ants since they were first spotted in 2015, and the additional funds awarded by the National Biosecurity Management Group will allow NT Department of Primary Industry and Resources staff to continue their great work.”

Assistant Minister for Primary Industry and Resources, Jeff Collins said: “Browsing ants are an aggressive species and form super colonies that destroy native ant species and other invertebrates.

“We have been working on eradication in line with national guidelines, which has included tracing, surveillance and control measures to contain and eradicate infestations.

“Odour detection dogs such as Willow are a valuable part of the eradication process and can cover more ground in a shorter time than humans searching for the ants - she is so skilled she can sniff out a single ant from several metres away.

“The sharing of knowledge between governments so far has been vital in the success we have seen in eradication attempts to date, and the additional funding will help us rid the Territory of this pest for good.”

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