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2 December 2003
A tiny ant easily mistaken for a midge may have become established in
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is asking Dunedin
residents to be on the lookout for Hypoponera punctatissima or Roger's
ant. This is a secretive ant and is most likely to be recognised when
winged females swarm in large numbers on warm nights.
Amelia Pascoe, MAF's Programme Coordinator Exotic Animal Response, said
Roger's ant is most likely to be found in places of human habitation as it
is attracted to warm, moist areas and often form small colonies in
buildings with damp areas such as leaking pipes and drains. It is unlikely
to be found in domestic homes and is most likely to occur in factories,
institutions, hotels, food premises, laundries, and other buildings where
there is a significant continuous source of heat.
"The ant is very small and easily dispersed by wind. Only the
females fly and will swarm in large numbers; generally they grow to around
3.5mm. The males are smaller at 2 to 3 mm and stay in the nest; workers
are also about 2-3 mm and are hard to detect as they do not form
trails," she said.
MAF at this stage does not know how long the ant has been in Dunedin or
how widely it is distributed.
Roger's ant was first noticed during renovations of a Dunedin building
last summer. It is believed that after a nest was disturbed winged female
ants were produced in large numbers and were distributed by wind and hot
air from the building's ventilation system. Staff initially thought the
insects were flying midges but confirmation of Roger's ant was made when
the owner submitted samples for identification in July 2003.
"These ants are a nuisance and are capable of stinging, although,
generally they do not pose a significant human health risk, especially in
cool temperate areas where the ants is less active. Those stung suffer a
reddened, itchy lump that may last for several days. This can be relieved
by applying a cold compress (e.g. ice in a cloth, plastic bag or plastic
wrap) on the site for 15-20 minutes.
In very rare cases some individuals who are stung may experience an
allergic reaction and should seek medical attention immediately," she
Overseas experience indicates that Roger's ant can also be a nuisance
in the food and pharmaceutical industries because of their tendency to
infest heated industrial buildings. Effective pest control, hygiene and
building maintenance will assist in managing this pest.
Roger's ant is present on the Kermadec Islands which lie 1000km
Northeast of New Zealand. This is the first record of Roger's ant on the
New Zealand mainland.
If you find what you believe is a Roger's ant please call the MAF
Exotic Disease and Pest Emergency Hotline on 0800 809 966.
MAF has been working alongside the New Zealand Food Safety Authority,
the Ministry of Heath, the Department of Conservation, and the Otago
Regional Council during this investigation.
For further information:
Philippa White Senior Communications
Adviser 04 498 9948 or 027 223 1875