US eradicates invasive insect species from Pacific territory for the first time

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The US Fish and Wildlife Service reports having eradicated an invasive species from Johnston Atoll, an unincorporated territory of the North American country in the Pacific, located west of the Hawaiian Islands.

The yellow crazy ants, originating from Southeast Asia, have harassed the seabirds that nest on the island and especially their chicks, many of which went blind or died as a consequence of the formic acid that these ants expel, communicated that American authority last week.

This invasive species, whose scientific name is ‘Anoplolepis gracilipes’, receives the nickname of ‘crazy ant’ because of its characteristic rapid and erratic movements, especially when disturbed. It was unintentionally introduced to that atoll and other regions of the Pacific, including the Hawaiian Islands.

Due to its expansion in Johnston Atoll, thousands of birds stopped nesting in the more than 28 hectares of a nature reserve that constitutes the only avian habitat in almost 1.5 million square kilometers in the middle of the high seas. The area is a refuge for 14 species, and for the red-tailed tropical bird it is home to its largest colony in the world.

After estimating the damage caused by the plague, a group of volunteers and workers from the US Fish and Wildlife Service proceeded to experiment with poisonous baits and other techniques to get rid of crazy ants. The work lasted several years and, when the insects disappeared, the scientists brought two dogs trained to sniff out the underground colonies to the atoll. The hounds traveled about 200 kilometers and they did not find any ants.

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This is the first time that an invasive ant species has been eradicated from such a large area of ​​land in the United States, “summarized Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument Superintendent Kate Toniolo.” To ensure eradication was successful, teams have I’ve been monitoring, looking for and examining these crazy yellow ants. “

Once the mission is over, officials celebrate that the atoll is once again a safe haven for seabirds, but they will continue to restore their habitat and also will focus on other invasive species, assured Stefan Kropidlowski, of that same entity.

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