Linden’s take on a yellow crazy ant invasion

Interviewed by Ciara Bridgland and Sylvia Conway in August 2021 at Green Forest Road, Kuranda

Linden Henry is a resident of Green Forest Road Kuranda. He first discovered yellow crazy ants on his property in February 2019. This is his story...

What did you first notice here at your property on Green Forest Road Kuranda?

I’ve had some experience in dealing with yellow crazy ants from visiting a previous outbreak in Cairns, so I knew what they look like. I was doing some mowing out the back of my property and overturned a few tree branches and the ants came pouring out of the ground. I was confident that they were yellow crazy ants, so I took a sample to the Wet Tropics Management Authority’s Yellow Crazy Ant Eradication Program office and had them identified just to make sure and it was a positive detection.

How did this affect you as a landholder?

At the time they spread quickly from the back paddock of my property and I didn’t want them anywhere near my house. In the time from when I first detected them they had probably travelled 50 odd metres into areas I hadn’t seen before, so they were travelling quite fast. Before the first baiting, I found a couple of ants in the workshop shed which is about 80m from where I first detected them, and the shed is 40m away from my house, so they were on the move.

What was your first experience with yellow crazy ants like?

I think a lot of people have a perception of ‘how bad can a few ants be’. But when you see a major outbreak and see that everywhere you look, along the ground, in the trees, everything is covered in yellow crazy ants and then you don’t see anything else. No birds, no spiders, no lizards, you just realise its bare of any other species, just yellow crazy ants. I remember thinking wow you definitely wouldn’t want them in your house and then years later here we are, I have yellow crazy ants. I guess the saving was that a fair bit of research had already occurred since the first detection of yellow crazy ants in Cairns and they had been successfully detected, treated, and monitored nearby at Russett Park.

Taskforce coordinator Sylvia Conway and Linden Henry inspecting the area that was once crawling with yelloe crazy ants

Caption: Taskforce coordinator Sylvia Conway and Linden Henry inspecting the area that was once crawling with yellow crazy ants

Caption: Yellow crazy ants got close to Linden’s house

What was the response like from the Authority after you first brought the sample of ants to them?

When I took the samples down [to the Authority], I was pretty sure they were yellow crazy ants even though they appeared to be a little bit smaller than the ones I had seen previously but like most species, there are variations. I was confident, but also hoping that it was just a native ant that looked similar because I didn’t want them here, but I knew it wasn’t, I was pretty sure, I just had to make the positive ID. The result came back about 2 hours later. I think they [the Authority] were a little bit surprised because the Russett Park outbreak had already been fully underway, I think outside of the Russett Park infestation this was only the second place in Kuranda that they had been detected. So thankfully, I believe they hadn’t been here for a long time to spread out and really get going unlike Russett Park, having had more time.

Since you detected the ants, who has come to your property and have you seen the ants?

There have been multiple agencies coming here. With my permission, James Cook University had come and set up lures looking for yellow crazy ant queens. And between Wet Tropics Management Authority and volunteers, there have been a few different people. It’s been okay, people have been polite and ring to let you know they are coming, not just rock up, which is nice you get a bit of warning. As the ants are mostly out the back of the property, having visitors hasn’t been a big problem. 

The last time the ants were baited, they were found in the swimming pool area which is within 5 metres of my house. I want to avoid them entering and nesting in my house after seeing what they can do in large numbers. In one Cairns property, they were coming out of the light fittings, up the walls and everywhere you looked, ants and more ants. I really wanted to avoid that. I think the treatments and the surveys by the Authority was paramount in getting on top of them as quickly as possible.

Caption: Wet Tropics Management Authority’s Jeff Jackson conducting field research on yellow crazy ants on behalf of James Cook University.

Caption: Yellow crazy ants were spotted along the concrete edge of Linden’s house.

What's your property like now?

I haven’t found any. I keep an eye out, as I have said before you only seem to need a couple of ants and then they’re off. It’s surprising that other native ant populations like green ants and others don’t seem to be impacted and have come back, they seem to be doing their normal thing, but I think we must be vigilant given just how bad they can get. As a community, we need to keep on top of them, and detect them at least so you can get into them early. You know the stitch in time saves nine mentality. 

[yellow crazy ants have since been detected on Linden’s property since this interview]

Have the treatments and surveys been working?

Yes, the treatments and surveys have been effective. It’s also good to keep learning about the ants, liaising with others and talking about them, to make sure you know what you are looking for and keep checking areas where they have been previously found. Again, how bad can a few ants be but it’s not until you see an infestation in full swing, they will just climb over everything, out numbering any competition. Nothing can withstand them.

Green Forest resident, Linden Henry shows us where he first detected yellow crazy ants on his property.

Caption: Linden standing at the site, in his backyard, of what was a thick yellow crazy ant infestation.

What message do you have for your community?

Get familiar, know your enemy, know what they look like, and don’t be blasé about them.

Linden HenryLandowner at the Green Forest infestation, Kuranda QLD

The main thing is to get familiar, know your enemy, know what they look like, and don’t be blasé about them. Early detection is vital which means easier to eradicate a small infestation before growing into ever-increasing size and numbers. The infestation out the back traveled 80m in only four weeks or so, to the point where you couldn’t stand without them quickly going up your legs. I had to wait for the surveys to be finalised before treatments commenced, and I did say I would take measures myself to protect the shed, house, and cars because I didn’t want them in the house or shed. Once treatments started amazingly the numbers decreased quite quickly. This was after four treatments each year for two years. This year they did a survey and brought their odour detection dog out to have a sniff around and didn’t find any more. It’s like most pests you need to have that follow-up. Eradication is difficult if you drop your guard, so monitoring should be everyone’s responsibility. It’s in the landowners best interest not to leave it up to a handful of other people to keep checking their properties. Know what you are dealing with so you can keep an eye out for them. Once you’ve got an eye for them, you soon pick them up differently from the native varieties. Take time to get to know them.

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Ciara Bridgland

Ciara Bridgland

Yellow Crazy Ant Community Taskforce Coordinator

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