Assessing ant pathways to better inform site selection for ant surveillance

Project ID: 170615
Project Name: Assessing ant pathways to better inform site selection for ant surveillance
CEBRA Project Leaders: Assoc Prof Andrew Robinson, Dr Stephen Lane
MPI Sponsor: Veronica Herrera, Director, Diagnostics and Surveillance Services , Operations branch, Ministry for Primary Industries
MPI Project Leader:  Lora Peacock, Senior Advisor, Diagnostics and Surveillance Services , Operations branch, Ministry for Primary Industries
Collaborators: Dr Paul Craddock, Flybusters Consulting

The National Invasive Ant Surveillance programme (NIAS) detects 10-12 exotic ants per year at Ports and targeted Transitional facilities (devanning sites). With each incursion, the origin of the exotic ants that were detected is unknown, and it is impossible to trace the incursion. Due to the fact that the ants move from the containers to a food source by the time of sampling, there is generally no association of the ants with specific containers. Understanding the relative origin of ant incursions would better inform the risk around surveillance sites and help with selecting transitional facilities for future surveillance. There are thousands of transitional facilities clustered throughout the country and ‘smart’ site selection is needed to target the risk associated with transitional facilities.

At present, risk variables such as first port of origin and volume of containers; commodity type; and sites of previous detections of ants or other insects are used to determine which transitional facilities are surveyed. There is no evidence however, that these variables are important for predicting where ant incursions may occur, and consequently whether they are important for site selection. It would be useful to know if these (and other) variables are key components for site selection, and to identify the etiology of ant arrivals to New Zealand to inform where ant surveillance can be targeted.

The main objective of this project is to develop a better understanding of the patterns of ant arrivals to New Zealand. The project aims to predict risk in relation to sites, and in particular transitional facilities, where ants are more likely to arrive. The development of such risk profiles will enable scientifically defensible rationale to select sites for targeted surveillance within the NIAS program.

Research Program

Strengthening Surveillance

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