Northern Territory on track to eradicate browsing ant by mid-2021

Earlier this year, the National Biosecurity Management Group, which includes all State and Territory governments, agreed to a whole-of-life response plan and committed $4.68 million to continue eradicating the exotic pest.

The funding has allowed additional full-time surveillance officers to be employed on the program, and supported the return visits to the majority of properties in East Arm and Berrimah where browsing ant had previously been detected.

It will also allow for ant species research, genetic testing, and surveillance work in remote communities that will help the Territory respond to any future invasive ant incursions.

Ant detection dog Willow, a black labrador trained to detect invasive ants, has made several visits to Darwin since 2015 when browsing ants were first detected

Willow and her handler Justin Gibson are from the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program in Queensland and assist with the browsing ant surveillance program here in the Territory.

Over the last two years Willow and Justin have visited all 20 infested premises. This visit will also survey targeted sentinel sites and provide additional evidence for properties that share boundaries with an infested premise.

Willow is so skilled at detecting browsing ants she can sniff out a single ant from several metres away.

Since the original browsing ant detection in 2015, the ants have been contained due to ongoing activities by the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Resources, which involved tracing, surveillance, baiting and spraying

There are currently 20 properties in Darwin with an infested premise status, meaning browsing ant has been detected on the premise, including sites in East Arm, Frances Bay and Berrimah. Each of these premises have been treated and six months of post-treatment surveillance has been completed.

Browsing ants are exotic to Australia and poses a threat to Australia’s environment and agricultural industries. More information about browsing ants is available on the Northern Territory Government website.

If you think you see a browsing ant population contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Ant detector dog Willow, a black labrador, and her handler Justin Gibson
Black labrador Willow can sniff out a single ant from several metres away