The population of Christmas Island’s iconic red crabs is estimated to have decreased from 60-70 million to 20-30 million over the past 15-20 years. due to super colonies of yellow crazy ants. The territorial ants are known to attack the red crabs with a deadly acid.
After more than 5 years of research, La Trobe scientists identified a new weapon in the fight to save the local icon – a Malaysian micro-wasp. The Malaysian micro-wasp, Tachardiaephagus somervillei, is a predator to a scale insect that also inhabits the island and produces the ants’ food supply.
The Malaysian wasp’s evolutionary biology prohibits it from attacking anything other than this particular scale insect making the wasp species a safe and viable option for the biological control project. Until now, intensive poison baiting was the only option to control the colonies of ants.
The import and release of the tiny wasps to Christmas Island is pending final government approvals.