African Black Sugar Ant
African black sugar ant (Lepisiota incisa) is not native to Australia and was first detected at Maddington, Perth, Western Australia in January 2020.
The detection was made at a commercial premises during routine surveillance, as part of national eradication programs for red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) and browsing ant (Lepisiota frauenfeldi).
By September 2020, multiple detections had been made in Perth, some thought to be 4-5 years old.
As of March 2023, following further surveillance by WA’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), there are 13 clusters of confirmed premises where African black sugar ant has been detected. These clusters are distributed across the following Perth suburbs:
- Maida Vale
DPIRD has treated all infested sites to contain the spread of the ants.
Extensive surveillance, tracing and treatment will continue at the infested premises, which are in industrial areas, bushland and one residential property.
Movement restrictions are in place at high-risk sites to prevent the transport and spread of this pest.
African black sugar ant is a nationally significant pest under the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA). The National Biosecurity Management Consultative Committee (NBMCC) agreed in March 2023 that it is still technically feasible and cost beneficial to eradicate African black sugar ant from Western Australia.
The national response plan to eradicate the infestation is being revised by DPIRD to include additional response activities for recent detections, for endorsement by the NBMCC followed by approval by the National Biosecurity Management Group (NBMG).
Biosecurity and report
Members of the community can help contain exotic ant species by reporting any suspect sightings and taking care not to move ants on goods, vehicles or clothing. Shipping containers, soil, mulch, fertiliser and other plant material can also be sources of infestation.
The further the ant spreads, the less chance there is to eradicate it.
If you see unusual ants that could be an exotic species, including Red Imported Fire Ant or Browsing Ant, it is important that you report it to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 as soon as possible.
About African black sugar ant
African black sugar ant (Lepisiota incisa) is not native to Australia but is highly suited to Australian conditions. While this ant is a significant threat to our environment, it is not harmful to people or animals.
This ant has a shortened head and thorax and is a shiny dark brown colour with thick blackish bristles. The upper surface of the lower midsection of its body has a deep notch on both ends. Its hairless legs are mostly yellow.
African black sugar ant is one of several invasive exotic ant species that can form super colonies by establishing interconnected nests with collaborative egg-laying queens. A single colony can spread for hundreds of square kilometres.
African black sugar ant demonstrates invasive characteristics with displays of aggressive behaviours towards other ant species and is known to outcompete native ants.
Compared to similar exotic species, African black sugar ant has a greater potential to establish in a wide variety of habitats including natural, undisturbed bush areas. If it becomes established, the ant may disrupt social, business, and agricultural activities. It is not known to be a significant horticultural pest. African black sugar ant has been observed to harvest plastic and damage electrical equipment and infrastructure in Western Australia.
Exotic invasive ants are listed on the National Priority List of Exotic Environmental Pests, Weeds and Diseases (2020) and National Priority Plant Pest List (2019) because of their impact on native ant species and our environment. Exotic ants can displace native species and some like red imported fire ant can cause painful stings to people and animals.
More information on Australia’s approach to preparing for and responding to exotic invasive ants can be found in the National Invasive Ant Biosecurity Plan 2018 - 2028.
The National Biosecurity Management Consultative Committee (NBMCC) provides technical and scientific advice on responses to exotic pest and disease incursions that impact on Australia’s environment, social amenity, or business activity, in accordance with arrangements under the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA). The Committee is chaired by the Australian Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer. Membership is generally comprised of representatives from the Commonwealth, state and territory governments.
The National Biosecurity Management Group is the decision-making body for responses to exotic pest and disease incursions that impact on Australia’s environment, social amenity, or business activity, in accordance with arrangements under the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement. It is chaired by the Deputy Secretary of the Biosecurity and Compliance Group at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Membership is generally comprised of senior officials from Commonwealth, state and territory governments.