What Electric Ants Look Like - 4 June 2006

Submitted by Webmaster on Fri, 09/06/2006 - 12:32

Fire ants and electric ants are the greatest environmental pests on the planet. It is vital that we locate and eradicate these pests as soon as they are discovered in Australia. Unfortunately, most of the Pacific nations surrounding Australia have become infested, and the ants have increasing opportunities to invade Australia. The key to preventing these ants from getting a foothold is to report the ants to DPI quickly (Tel 132 523).To help people know what electric ants look like, Future of Cairns has taken some photos of ants from the original colony that was discovered three weeks ago. Again we stress that ant identification is something that only a few experts are capable of. Bite testing ants is also not a reliable way of testing for fire ants and electric ants either. Apart from the small risk that you will have a serious allergic reaction when bitten, there is also the risk that you will find a group of fire/electric ants that do not feel like biting and mistaking them for sugar ants. The ants in these photos could not be persuaded to attack me, yet ants from the same colony painfully savaged other people. Electric ants are very small. They are about 50% larger than sandflies or 2/3 the size of the common kitchen ant and green ants are giants in comparison. They are so small that they look like two full stops joined together and it is not possible to see any of their features. Even under the most powerful magnifying glass, they are still so small that the identifying features can’t be seen and a microscope is necessary for proper identification. Even thought the ants have a black head and a black bum, the look uniformly red brown when seen with the naked eye. Compared to other ants they look short legged and compact (stumpy). I cannot report first hand the sensation of electric ant bites but they inflict much more pain than green tree ants and the pain persists for quite a while after the ant is removed. I suppose they are similar to stinging nettles or the feeling of hot chilli rubbed on your pink bits. Certainly the people who have these ants report that it became impossible to swim in the swimming pool due to floating ants biting arm pits and other tender targets. Enduring the ants is not an option.On a final note, the ants have been in the area for at least six months, yet nobody reported them. It took someone who knew of the ant species (me) to take the ants into DPI and say hey I found some and I am 90% sure they are Wasmannia for the infestation to be officially detected. When the article on the ants was published in the Cairns Post, suddenly a large number of people in the affected area called in and reported the ants. This is what happened in Brisbane with fire ants, people lived with the ants until a lady from Texas where the ants are a major pest identified the ants and told the government what they were. In the last few years, it has cost 175 million dollars to control the fire ant outbreak. People need to get a little bit more proactive in reporting animals or plants that they suspects are introduced pests. Electric Ants at top, sugar ants below - they are stuck down with sticky tape. Lines on paper are 6 mm apart

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