In 2008 the people of Atafu atoll started having problems with yellow crazy ants. Pacific Biosecurity first heard of the problem through Monica Gruber‘s work with Eco-Oceania’s Ray Pierce in 2011 during a biodiversity survey sponsored by CEPF.
Since then we have been working with Mika Perez, the Director of Tokelau EDNRE (Department of Economic Development, Environment and Natural Resources) and the community of Atafu to reduce this problem.
Ray, Monica and Mika developed an invasive species action plan. The community on Atafu have been taking steps to manage the ants around their homes, and EDNRE have made improvements to biosecurity. However, these repeated problems with invasive ants require better long-term solutions.
In 2012 98% of the people of Atafu atoll in Tokelau considered yellow crazy ants to be a problem. Direct effects of yellow crazy ants on people included complaints that they “ruined the garden”, “ate the “food for pigs that is kept outside”, and residents in areas with high ant infestations “can't sleep outside anymore”. These ants also decimated the reproductive output of native white terns.
In June 2018 a repeat survey of villagers after ant control work found that 0% of residents though the ants were a problem, the people had reclaimed their outdoor lifestyle, and white tern reproduction was back to normal levels.
Grateful thanks to the MFAT Partnerships for International Development Fund for enabling this work, and to the EDNRE team, and Flybusters Antiants Consulting for contributing to this success.
Gruber MAM, Pierce RJ, Burne AR, Naseri-Sale L & Lester PJ. 2018. Using community engagement and biodiversity surveys to inform on decisions to control invasive species: a case study of yellow crazy ants in Atafu, Tokelau. Pacific Conservation Biology. 24:379-387