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No Joke. Ants Threaten New Zealand Campground

April 1, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

View of Taputaputa Bay

Editor’s Note: You got problems? Read this story courtesy of www.voxy.co.nz about a serious problem facing a campground in New Zealand. This is no April Fool’s Day joke but a serious problem facing a popular campground.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) hopes an eradication operation has freed one of New Zealand’s most scenic and unspoilt campgrounds from the clutches of a colony of notorious argentine ants.

DOC’s threats manager in Kaitaia, D.J. Neho, says staff spent four hours yesterday laying bait across a 2.5 hectare area of Taputaputa campground, just south of Cape Reinga, as part of its eradication plan against the voracious insects.

This is final phase of an operation begun in February, after the ants were discovered at Taputaputa Campground, a popular spot in the Te Paki reserves just south of Cape Reinga.

Mr. Neho says Te Paki Reserves is home to a large number of special native insects and animals only found in the area, including the rare giant land snail pupu-harakeke.

“We needed to carry out the second hit to ensure any ants hatched since February are also destroyed,” Mr. Neho says.

Argentine ants are one of New Zealand’s most invasive and aggressive threats to wildlife. They form colonies that then cooperate with each other to create super colonies, and are capable of smothering and eating bird chicks, lizards and insects.

Since their arrival in 1990, Argentine ants have spread throughout the country. DOC has kept them out of the pristine Te Paki reserves through regular monitoring, enabling an eradication program to be launched as soon as the insidious insects were discovered at the camp earlier in the year.

However Argentine ants already have a firm grip on parts of Kaitaia.

Otere Halkyard-Mare, property manager for Te Rangi Aniwaniwa Kura Kaupapa Maori in Kaitaia, believes Argentine ants have invaded her school.

“They are all over the place. The kids can’t sit down outside without ants crawling into their shorts,” she says.

So Otere decided to volunteer her time with the Taputaputa eradication operation in order to gain some experience in controlling the pesky creatures.

“It was a great opportunity to see what’s involved. It’s quite a process to get rid of these ants. You need the right bait and it needs to be laid carefully,” says Ms. Halkyard-Mare.

Once the queen ant realises that she is being poisoned, she will send out a message to the rest of the ants to stop eating the food source. To make sure the whole colony had eaten the bait before this happens, the toxin needs to be slow-acting, and the entire affected area must be treated at the same time. Xstinguish is the only bait currently available considered effective against argentine ants, because of its slow acting toxin.

CBEC’s Lavinia Hoeft, along with Bryan Harris and Brad Winch from NorthTec’s Certificate in Professional Hunting and Pest Control also gave up their time to help out.

Bryan said it was good to gain some hands on conservation pest control experience, although they usually hunt bigger things.

“It’s nice to be able to give something back to the bush, helping look after it,” he said.

Aside from the threat they pose to native wildlife, Argentine ants can also be a major annoyance inside.

Northland Regional Council’s Kaitaia Manager, Peter Weissing, says because they form such huge colonies and travel in thick columns, they can be a serious nuisance in homes.

“They get into bedding and clothing, and I’ve even heard of people having to put table legs on saucers to stop the ants climbing up the table,” he says. Mr. Wiessing says some neighbors have banded together to control the ants and have achieved good results.

“It is possible to get rid of the ants. The Regional Council is happy to give people advice on how to do this, and also to help them identify ants. If you think you may have Argentine ants, put some into a container and call in to our office,” advises Mr. Wiessing.

Flybusters are the distributors of Xstinguish in New Zealand. For more information see their website www.flybusters.co.nz.

Another product in development is a spray for around boundaries which will deter the ants. For more information contact Warwick Ivory at Alpha Environmental on 0508 425 742 or see their website www.alphaenviro.co.nz

Meanwhile the Department of Conservation will continue to monitor Te Paki reserves to ensure the honey coloured invaders don’t get a chance to establish a foothold.

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