The introduction of cane toads (Bufo marinus) to Australia in 1935 seemed like a great idea at the time. Seventy five years on, the cane toad is regarded as the nation’s number one pest, a danger to native reptiles and amphibians as well as domestic pets. After years of research, ecologists from the University of Sydney have announced a means of population control that is inexpensive and low technology.
Meat Ants: the Solution to Cane Toad Control
The British Ecological Society’s Journal of Applied Ecology (February 10,2010) details the findings of Professor Richard Shine and his Team Bufo in the search for a natural solution. Team Bufo has reported that the native meat ant (Iridomyrmex reburrus) can tolerate the cane toad’s toxin. With a little encouragement, in the form of strategically placed cat food, ant densities were increased near waterways where toadlets were emerging. The study found both ant densities, and toad mortality, increased more than fourfold: 98 percent of metamorph toads in the study area encountered meat ants and 84 percent were attacked within two minutes. Over 50 percent of attacks were immediately fatal while 88 percent of the escapee toads died soon after.
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