Tramp ants

National exotic invasive ants workshop

Tramp ant (exotic invasive ants) specialists from agriculture and environment agencies, researchers, international experts and the Invasive Species Council met in Brisbane from 8-9 November 2016 for a National Tramp Ants Workshop.

This workshop was the first meeting of Australian and international experts to develop a national Tramp Ant Biosecurity Plan and to identify key research needs for national surveillance activities. The workshop was organised by the Plant Biosecurity CRC on behalf of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in response to the increasing number, currently eight, of emergency response plans underway for exotic tramp ants. 

There are five species of invasive ants included in the world listing of the top 100 invasive species, three of which are established in Australia and the remaining two are present but under eradication programmes.

The workshop endorsed prevention, early detection, and standardised national response procedures as the key overarching themes to guide the development of a national Tramp Ant Biosecurity Plan.

The workshop also endorsed the use of the term ‘exotic invasive ants’ in preference to the term ‘tramp ants’.

"Red Fire Ant Macro" by Larah McElroy is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The key areas identified by the workshop participants to improve Australia’s biosecurity capability in response to exotic invasive ants were:

PREVENTION

  • To develop a target list of high priority species of exotic invasive ants;

  • To complete risk analyses of the entry pathways for high priority species;

  • To work closely with national port authorities, cargo transit areas and container depots to implement prophylactic treatment (baiting) regimes, particularly where this is a more cost effective alternative to surveillance;

  • To collaborate with trading partners on improved offshore management practices and intelligence to minimise the risk of entry of exotic invasive ants to Australia;

  • To evaluate and promote the development of new technologies for detection and treatment of exotic invasive ants on risk pathways.   

DETECTION

  • To research and prepare detailed dossiers on the specific biological and ecological attributes of high priority species of exotic invasive ants to enable early detection and effective response;

  • To develop reference collections of specimens of high priority species and make the collections accessible to all diagnosticians;

  • To develop national diagnostic protocols and field tools for rapid diagnosis for high priority species;

  • To develop specific training material for workers in national port authorities,  cargo transit areas and container depots for effective detection and surveillance; 

  • To design and implement a national surveillance program for early detection including generalised surveillance and species specific surveillance;

  • To identify and broaden national community engagement and awareness activities to assist with early detection of exotic invasive ants.

RESPONSE

  • To reflect the lessons learned from successful and ongoing ant eradication programs in the development of a national plan;

  • To develop standardised and pre-agreed national response principles and procedures for exotic invasive ant incursions (including baiting, treatments, movement, containment, regulations and proof of freedom);

  • Increased national investment in the training and deployment of detector dogs for delimitation, detection and proof of freedom;

  • To support the establishment of  permanent capacity for the management of exotic invasive ants to preserve the national skills and expertise developed in successful and ongoing eradication programs;

  • To support the development and deployment of drone technology for the delivery of baits;

  • To promote the adoption of nationally harmonised systems for the movement of high-risk materials.

The next step will be the compilation and analysis of the outputs from the workshop to be used in the development of a draft national biosecurity plan for exotic invasive ants. The draft plan will be considered by the National Biosecurity Committee in early 2017.

Download a copy of this communique (pdf)

Independent Review of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program (report tabled by the Australian Senate in 2016)