HONOLULU – An invasive species known as the crazy yellow ant has been eradicated from a remote U.S. atoll in the Pacific.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Wednesday that the ants had been successfully removed from the Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.
The ants stalk seabirds on the uninhabited atoll and have prevented nesting on about 70 acres of land.
“This is the first time that an invasive ant species has been eradicated over such a large area in the United States,” Kate Toniolo, superintendent of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, said in a statement. “To ensure the success of the eradication, the teams monitored, researched and monitored the yellow crazy ants.”
For about a decade, ants threatened seabirds by swarming their nests – and everything on the ground. The ants spray formic acid on the birds, causing injury, including blindness and even death, Fish and Wildlife Service officials said.
Volunteers and federal workers included crazy ant strike teams who experimented with baits and other techniques to get rid of the pests. After teams killed the yellow crazy ants, two dogs trained to spot the species were brought in to search the grounds. The dogs sniffed nearly 120 miles without finding ants, federal officials said.
“While the Crazy Ant Strike Team’s mission is complete, the (US Fish and Wildlife) Service will continue to focus on restoring habitat, preventing the spread of other invasive species,” said Stefan Kropidlowski, Superintendent assistant to the Pacific Remote Islands Marine. National monument. “For now, we are celebrating that the refuge is once again a safe haven for the incredible seabirds that inhabit this incredible place.”
Johnston Atoll is a refuge for tens of thousands of seabirds of 15 different species, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It is home to the world’s largest colony of tropical red-tailed birds and is the only seabird habitat in over 570,000 square miles (nearly 1.5 million square kilometers) of open ocean.
The yellow mad ant is native to Southeast Asia, but has been unintentionally introduced to other parts of the Pacific, including Hawaii.
Crazy yellow ants “are a widespread and extremely harmful invasive ant. They have spread throughout all of the major Hawaiian Islands and cause significant ecological damage to plants and animals, such as the endangered Hawaiian yellow-faced bee and nesting birds, “said Sheldon Plentovich, United States Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Island Coastal Program Coordinator.
Plentovich said the ants did not make their way to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, but they “are very good hitchhikers and we are vigilant in biosecurity and surveillance for detection. early in the monument “.
Plentovich said mad ants get their name from their rapid and erratic movements, especially when disturbed.
Johnston Atoll is one of the most isolated places on earth and is part of the Remote Pacific Islands Marine National Monument. It is approximately 820 miles (1,320 km) southwest of Honolulu.