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Join the ant hunt: How accurately can the public recognise red imported fire ant Solenopsis invicta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Australia.

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McNaught, M. K., Wylie, F. R. and Bell, R. (2019) Join the ant hunt: How accurately can the public recognise red imported fire ant Solenopsis invicta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Australia. Austral Entomology, 58 (4). pp. 745-752.

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Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1111/aen.12388


A national eradication program for the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, has been ongoing in Australia since 2001 when the pest was first officially identified in Brisbane, Queensland. Through a range of communication strategies, the program has encouraged the public to report suspect S. invicta and to submit ant samples for identification. There is now a 16‐year dataset of ant specimen submissions from the public and, in the last 5 years, digital ant photograph submissions. Analysis of this dataset shows that, at the end of 2017, the program has processed over 45 000 identifiable ant samples from 41 genus groups from the public in the greater Brisbane region, as well as viewed almost 7000 digital photo submissions. Of these submissions, 8486 were S. invicta samples, with 898 of these originating from a photo. The 10 most commonly submitted local ant genera represent 90% of non‐target ant samples received. Eight of these genera share two or more traits with S. invicta. Since photos were introduced, there has been a reduction in the average yearly non‐target samples received, along with an increase in the proportion of positive detections within public submissions. We conclude that the program's messaging about how to recognise S. invicta has been effective and that photo submissions are a cost‐effective and successful engagement tool. Our study shows that a high level of confidence can be placed on the ability of the public to recognise and report suspect S. invicta and demonstrates again the importance of awareness campaigns in enhancing the probability of passive detection of a target species.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Biosecurity Queensland
Keywords:Solenopsis invicta red imported fire ant citizen action community engagement eradication passive surveillance public education
Subjects:Science > Invasive Species > Animals > Animal control and ecology
Science > Invasive Species > Animals > Impact assessment
Science > Zoology > Invertebrates > Insects
Live Archive:05 Mar 2019 04:38
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:44

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