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Impact of Argentine ants as a pest likened to atomic bomb going off in our back yard

An attempt at the world's biggest eradication of the Argentine ant is underway on Great Mercury Island as conservationists liken the impact of the lesser known pest to an atomic bomb going off in our back yard.

The island to the east of the Coromandel Peninsula is 1800 hectares of paradise that holds stories of our history.

It's believed to be the home of our earliest Polynesian settlers and one of our most intact archaeological sites as well as many native species which are now under attack by swarms of petite predators.

"When you think possums have taken nearly 100 years to get all over New Zealand, these guys have done it in 30 years and they go unnoticed because they're so small, for an invasive species that's incredible," Auckland Council biosecurity advisor Brian Shields told 1 NEWS.

Conservationists are fighting numbers with numbers, enlisting the public to lay poisonous bait, they hope worker ants will take to their queen.

"I just heard about this project and got involved and then realised what a significant impact they have on the environment," volunteer Sophie Futter says.

The ants were discovered here in 2013 and may have arrived in soil or timber.

While they are only two to three millimetres in size, they can form super-colonies, and are capable of killing lizards and chicks and consume so much food and nectar, there's none left for our native wildlife.

Experts do have sonme canine reinforcements in the fight though with Rhys the dog the world's first certified Argentine ant sniffer, who along with his helper, Vito, sit down when they find the ants.

"These ants are quickly in defence mode and they'll start moving the larvae into a safe place, in 20 minutes, this nest will be gone," Peter Corson from Department of Conservation told 1 NEWS.

DOC, the council, industry, the island's owners and the public are working together.

The ants are smart, using fencing to get across the island quickly.

It's hoped the ants can be eradicated over six summers with the public being asked to check boats and belongings before visiting Great Mercury or any of our islands.


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    Conservationists liken them to a bomb going off in our back yard. Source: 1 NEWS