Anticipation is building for the start of Autumn Ant Blitz 2020 during the month of March, to raise awareness and increase surveillance for invasive ant pests.
While native ants play an important part in the ecosystem, invasive ants from interstate or overseas pose a significant threat to Western Australia's valuable agriculture industry, the environment, personal safety and social amenities.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development's (DPIRD) Ant Blitz provides an opportunity for all members of the community to survey their local area and report ant observations to help demonstrate the presence or absence of ant pests.
DPIRD senior technical officer Marc Widmer encouraged the public to get involved in the campaign and discover what ants were in their local area.
"Native ants are considered 'nature's broom' cleaning up our environment, helping pollination, aerating our lawns and providing food for other lifeforms," Mr Widmer said.
"But unwanted ants can threaten the balance of the ecosystem, ruin farmers' crops, as well inflict a nasty sting or bite on humans, pets and livestock."
Mr Widmer said biosecurity campaigns for exotic ant species were currently underway to stop two ant pests from becoming established in WA.
"One of the world's worst pests, red imported fire ant, originally from South America, was detected at the Fremantle Port in November 2019, which can form 'super colonies' in addition to inflicting a fiery sting," he said.
"Surveys are also underway for browsing ant, originally from southern Europe, at Welshpool, after nests were detected as part of routine surveillance. Browsing ant populations were previously detected at Kewdale, Belmont and Perth airport but have since been eradicated.
"While the department's efforts are very concentrated, input from the broader community is useful to reinforce and extend the surveillance territory."
Ant Blitz participants can make reports via the department's MyPestGuide Reporter app, via the website mypestguide.agric.wa.gov.au or contacting its Pest and Disease Information Service (PADIS) at email@example.com or 9368 3080.
DPIRD will respond promptly with a comment on the species of ants and whether they pose a biosecurity threat, in which case an officer will make contact.
Mr Widmer said the preference was to send samples to PaDIS so the ants could be more easily identified.
"The easiest way to collect a sample of ants and then to put them in a zip-lock bag or adhere the sample to white paper using clear sticky tape," he said.
"Be sure to label the sample with details about where the ants were found, a contact name, phone number and email or postal address."
Send ant samples to Ant Blitz, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, 3 Baron-Hay Court, South Perth, WA, 6151.
More information about Autumn Ant Blitz 2020 and how to send ant samples to PaDIS can be found at agric.wa.gov.au/autumnantblitz2020