Department of Conservation staff in Kaitaia are in the throes of planning a major control operation after confirming the presence of highly invasive Argentine ants at Tapotupotu campground in the Far North earlier this week.
The ants were confirmed on Wednesday morning, and DOC staff have been carrying out a survey to determine their exact location. The ants have been pinpointed to a small area adjacent to the stream.
Kaitaia Area Manager, Jon Maxwell, says that since the ants were confirmed, the affected area has been closed off and planning has been underway to begin an eradication operation as quickly as possible.
“We’ve informed iwi of the situation and the need to act fast. Argentine ants are one of the biggest threats we have to the native plants and animals in the area. They form super colonies and will eat anything in their path; plants, baby birds, lizards, snails, basically nothing is safe”, says Mr Maxwell.
Argentine ants first arrived in New Zealand in 1990. Since then they have spread across the country, including many parts of Northland. However, Te Paki has been kept clear. Until now.
Mr Maxwell said the Department has had a regular monitoring programme in place at Te Paki, as well as a strict quarantining regime for its staff working in the area, as well as bee keepers and contractors.
“On the positive side, because of our regular monitoring we’ve been able to detect the ants quickly and early, giving us the chance to get rid of them before they have a chance to establish themselves,” says Mr Maxwell.
An eradication treatment day is planned for 10 February, weather permitting.
“We need three days of fine weather either side of the treatment days, so we are hopeful of getting stuck in on Thursday. However, we will have to keep an eye on the weather,” explains Mr Maxwell.
Another treatment day will be carried out 6-8 weeks after the initial one. Mr Maxwell said the camp would be closed during the treatment days, although camping will still be available in the day area. Signage will also be in place in the treatment area to advise people of when the control operation is happening.
“We have a number of tourist operators that use the day area as a lunch stop, so some patience will be required on their part. However, given the gravity of the situation and the need to do whatever it takes to get rid of these ants, I’m sure everyone will be willing to work together,” says Mr Maxwell.
More information about removing Argentine ants from Tapotupotu campground
How will the Department eradicate the ants?
On Wednesday 9 February 2011 (weather dependent) the whole campground will be closed. The day area will still be open and available for camping. Ant bait called Xtinguish will be laid around the camp to kill the ants. Warning signs will be in place.
6-8 weeks after the initial treatment, another treatment day will be undertaken. To be successful, treatment must be carried out after 3 fine days, with another 3 fine days after the treatment day. Therefore, the dates mentioned are subject to change. Warning signs will be in place around the treatment area, so you will know when treatment is actually taking place.
What’s Xtinguish and is it harmful?
Xstinguish is the only bait that can kill Argentine ants. Xtinguish is a paste that contains Fipronil (0.1g/kg); the same toxin used in flea powder for cats and dogs.
The ants are attracted to the bait and take it back to their colonies to share. Xtinguish is not harmful to animals or humans; however it is still sensible to follow some simple safety precautions:
- Do not touch bait
- Watch children at all times
- Stay out of restricted areas
- To get advice on poisoning contact your local doctor, hospital or the National Poison’s Centre +64 3 474 7000
The use of Fipronil requires the notification of the Medical Officer of Health.
Where pesticides are used, DOC assesses the operation on public conservation land on behalf of the Environmental Risk Assessment Authority (ERMA). DOC Managers follow procedures approved by ERMA and apply conditions to ensure that all legal and policy requirements are met, and that any potential risks of the operation are managed.
How can I get more information about Argentine ants or the eradication programme?
Programme Manager Biodiversity Threats