Attack of the ants, dogs to the defence

CANINE CRAWLIES: Dogs are being used to sniff out an invasive ant.
CANINE CRAWLIES: Dogs are being used to sniff out an invasive ant.

The NT Government is using odour detection dogs to tackle a potential biosecurity threat in the Territory, and is seeing fantastic results.

Primary Industry Minister Ken Vowles, said the joint initiative with the Australian and Queensland Governments to tackle the global pest browsing ants is vital to ensure the safety of the NT’s $500 million agricultural sector.

Officials have already searched properties around Katherine but haven’t yet found any evidence of the invader.

The odour detection dogs travel from Queensland to Darwin to work with Territory biosecurity officers and sniff out the exotic pest.

“It is important to protect our agricultural sector and environment from invasive pests,” Mr Vowles said.

“Browsing ants were first discovered in the Territory in the Darwin Port area in 2015.

They eat other ants and form super colonies that can displace native species and most other invertebrates.

“Since they were discovered here we have been successfully using tracing, surveillance and control measures to contain and eradicate the infestation.

“Queensland odour detection dogs are being used to confirm whether several properties nearing the end of treatment and a two-year surveillance period are now free from the pest.

“The skills of these dogs are incredible – they can sniff out a single ant seven metres away. If the conditions are favourable, the dogs can detect ants from up to 30 metres away.”

After the initial sighting of browsing ants in 2015, 20 properties in the Darwin region were found to have infestations.

“Thanks to the hard work of Department of Primary Industry and Resources biosecurity staff, and sharing expertise with other governments, we remain on track to achieving eradication of this pest,” Mr Vowles said.

“And surveillance further afield in Pinelands, Humpty Doo, Katherine and Alice Springs, as well as in remote areas of Arnhem Land, Gove, the Tiwi Islands and Groote Eylandt, have found no detection of browsing ants.

“The odour detection dogs have played a huge role in this, as they can cover much more distance in a day than traditional surveillance methods, which involve humans slowly walking and scanning the ground.

“This sharing of expertise and resources shows how the NT Government is prepared to go the extra mile to keep our agricultural industries and environment safe.”

If you think you see a browsing ant population, contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline: 1800 084 881.

Information about browsing ants

  •  Browsing ants are an inconspicuous ants present in Timor Leste. The browsing ant is exotic and has not established in Australia.
  • They do bite and prefer disturbed areas. They will eat other native ants.
  • The browsing ant is a slender ant with a shiny, dark brown uniform. It is 3-4mm long with long antennae and long legs. When disturbed they run around in a haphazard manner.
  • Browsing ants can form multi-queened, super colonies and eat and displace native ant species, as well as other insects. They are not harmful to humans.
  • The colonies can cause damage to plants and landscaping.
  • Browsing ants are an arthropod scavenger, which can form multi-queened, super-colonies.
  • In high populations this pest can displace native ant species and most other invertebrates. They can also cause damage to plants and landscaping. Browsing ants are ideally suited to Australian conditions.
  • Browsing ants need to hitch hike to move from one site to another. Browsing ants cannot move without assistance

Kathrine TImes