Argentine ant surveys in the Abel Tasman National Park

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Motueka Ant Surveillance 2020

By DOC biodiversity ranger Renan Falleiros

Biosecurity of the National Parks against the presence of invasive species which can cause severe harm to nature is one of the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) roles.

One of these threats is the Argentine ant. These ants are very territorial and aggressive. With their potential to live in large colonies and massive appetite they pose a serious threat to native species by competing for food and habitat. They also predate native insects, plants and small vertebrates, even newly hatched bird chicks. They often move in large numbers, creating trails of ants. The easiest way to identify them is by their honey-brown colour as most native ants seen in New Zealand are black.

To monitor the presence of the invasive Argentine ant in the Abel Tasman National Park, DOC undertakes an annual Ant Surveillance programme, both inside and outside the park. The selection of surveillance sites in the park is based on the highest traffic areas for people and boats. Outside the park we focus on areas of the highest risk to carry ants in, especially the plant nurseries, DOC offices and parking-lots. This is because Argentine ants are already present in many regions in New Zealand, including Nelson.

Just under 20 sites were surveyed. At each site, the ant bait was placed in a number of open plastic containers and left out for about three hours on a sunny day. Luckily no Argentine ant was captured in any of the sites surveyed, so for the third consecutive year the Abel Tasman National Park is free of this pest ant.

DOC senior ranger Hans Stoffregen says considering the abundance of these ants in Nelson we have to keep vigilant as an incursion is highly likely over time.

Please, help DOC to prevent this pest from becoming established in the Abel Tasman National Park. If you see Argentine ants in the park, report them to the closest DOC office with photo and location. Also, remember to always clean all camping gear and clothes before entering the park. A lot of undesirable pests can be carried, without us even knowing.

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