I’ve been increasingly self-conscious about not having photographed the yellow crazy ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes. This species is one of the world’s most damaging invasive insects, wiping out entire faunas as it spreads like a formic acid carpet across the south pacific. The famous Christmas Island crabs, for example, are in danger of extinction from the ant menace. For a professional ant photographer to be without photos of this little terror is to be a bookstore without Harry Potter, or a coffee shop without scones.
Thanks to ant researcher Lori Lach, though, I was able to remedy this oversight. Lori took me to one of the infested sites near Cairns earlier this month. It was like a horror movie:
Well, not *exactly* like a horror movie. But still. I had never seen anything like it.
The ants are big. Most invasive ant species have large colonies of rather small ants, but Anoplolepis has large colonies of large ants. Viscerally, that makes a difference. Especially since they are also fast. Much more of the ground and foliage seems to be moving. Even for an ant guy, the effect is unnerving.
I was told not to be impressed, though, because that particular site had been treated recently and the infestation was “light”. It didn’t look light to me. I saw hardly any other ants and very few insects apart from the honeydew-producing bugs the ants were guarding. A heavy infestation must be… crazy.
Anyway. Check out the new photographs:
And, if you’d like a yellow crazy ant explainer Minute Earth has a short video.