Cairns farmer fights battle with yellow crazy ants
THEY are one of the world'ss most invasive pests and have caused major headaches since arriving in the Far North in 2001, but the State Government has all but given up its fight against yellow crazy ants.
Biosecurity Queensland's recent decision to scrap its eradication program has been met with outrage from stakeholders who say they had come agonisingly close to stamping out the pest.
Named for their frantic movements when disturbed, the ants have been spreading throughout the Far North over the past decade, while threatening parts of the world heritage-listed Wet Tropics region.
The ants release a formic acid that can cause temporary blindness, something Frank Teodo knows all too well.
The Edmonton resident (pictured) has been battling a yellow crazy ant infestation inside his home for the past three years and has lost his sight on three occasions after they crawled on his face while he was asleep.
Mr Teodo required daily medical check-ups and steroid treatments while battling blindness and then blurred vision.
"It's excruciating, it's like if you got a bit of grit in your eye and it became badly inflamed, but it's non-stop," he said.
"They come in through your light fittings and you can't stand in the yard or they climb up your legs."
He said aerial baiting performed by Biosecurity officers earlier this year had helped to reduce their numbers.
et Tropics Management Authority chairman Peter Valentine said the Government's decision to stop the program after only one of three planned sprayings was "illogical".
Mr Valentine said each spray cost about $50,000 -- considerably less than the amount required down the track when infestations had increased.
"It could cost us millions and millions of dollars to tackle if we sit back and let these ants get away," he said.
An outbreak of the ants could threaten wildlife and put the Wet Tropics heritage listing in danger if they are allowed to expand.
"They could displace native ants, knock out all the other invertebrates on the forest floor, affect any ground-nesting bird species and might displace larger mammals from discomfort," he said.
Mr Valentine said the problem also highlighted the failings of securing our ports against introduced pests, such as yellow crazy ants.
Cane farmers have also complained the ants are affecting their livelihood, including Edmonton farmer Deano Zappala who said an infestation had forced him to lose crops.
Entomologist Nader Sallam said while the yellow crazy ants did not directly attack cane crops, they allowed secondary pests to do the damage.
"They don't eat cane, but they provide protection for other secondary pests that produce a honey dew, like whiteflies, aphids or scale insects," he said.
Chief Biosecurity officer Jim Thompson was unavailable for comment, but a spokesperson said eradication was no longer considered feasible.
NEW CAIRNS.COM.AU COMMENT POLICY
We welcome your comments on this story. Comments are submitted for possible publication on the condition that they may be edited. Comments submitted without a full name and suburb/location will not be considered for publication. Please read our full comment policy and publication guidelines.
Share this article
Driving him crazy: Frank Teodo has been temporarily blinded, twice, by Yellow Crazy Ants and his property is over run with the invasive pest. Picture: MARC McCORMACK