Ant season

Tasmania specific bushwalking discussion.
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Ant season

Postby Tortoise » Thu 02 Dec, 2021 6:20 pm

I have vivid memories of zillions of bitey little black ants on a couple of trips. On my first visit to the Labyrinth, one January long ago, I waded out to a rock in a lake to escape them.

On a more recent trip late one December, we were overrun by them on the ridge line between Pelion West and Achilles. They were so bad we couldn't stop for a dip and a break in the lovely pools, in spite of the heat. We would have been covered in ants if we'd stopped for more than a couple of seconds. They weren't an issue on Perrins, Achilles or at Leonards Tarn.

I hear Cuvier can also be an issue.

Several walks high on my list are in the Labyrinth area, so I'm interested in people's experiences in mid-December/Jan of ants being majorly unpleasant or otherwise, for the following:

Massif/Falling Mtn
Walled/Macs/Nereus
Rocky Hill/Camp Hill/Pyramid Mtn
Cuvier/Manfred/Goulds Sugarloaf

Thanks in advance for any of your experiences, with or without the ants.
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Re: Ant season

Postby north-north-west » Fri 03 Dec, 2021 6:00 am

Ants weren't an issue on Walled/Macs/Nereus the summer we did it. Didn't have any issue with them on Falling and Massif either. Never had a problem with them in the Rocky Hill area either, but I've not been in there at the height of summer. Minor nuisance on Cuvier Shelf but not too bad if you keep to the rock slabs; not a problem on Goulds or Manfred, but I didn't camp near either of those two.
They were nightmarish at Elysia the first time I visited Walls and Macs. Hell on six tiny legs.
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Re: Ant season

Postby Tortoise » Fri 03 Dec, 2021 7:16 am

Thanks, nnw. Much appreciated!
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Re: Ant season

Postby Lostsoul » Sun 05 Dec, 2021 11:45 am

I’ve had trouble with them in summer at Elysia and also Cuvier Shelf a few other places as well.
I’ve got a tent footprint made from sisilation which I give a spray around with Bushman.I also usually leave cooking etc until about 8 pm in Summer,they seem to be less active then.
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Re: Ant season

Postby Tortoise » Sun 05 Dec, 2021 1:09 pm

Thanks for your input, Lostsoul. :)
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Re: Ant season

Postby Orion » Mon 06 Dec, 2021 6:59 am

The ants were overwhelming on one day trip to the Labyrinth that I did in early January 2018. We couldn't stop anywhere as the ants would sense our presence and begin assembling almost immediately. There were people in the lake just as a way to escape. It was very unpleasant and I wondered what it would have been like to camp there as I had once before. That one previous visit was ant-free but it had just snowed and so the area was pretty swampy. On the ant trip it was quite dry. I wondered at the time how common that ant experience was.
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Re: Ant season

Postby dee_legg » Mon 06 Dec, 2021 7:30 am

I too have enjoyed the company of the Lake Elysia ants. In my experience, they are rampant earlier in summer but not so much towards Autumn.
A recent trip to the Labyrinth and beyond in March was ant free.

Gould Plateau was rife with ants last weekend.
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Re: Ant season

Postby Son of a Beach » Mon 06 Dec, 2021 9:04 am

Are these the ants that make their nests in grass tussocks and small dense shrubs, at or just above ground level? Nasty little blighters! (Not venemous, but very irritating.) I've learned to look carefully for their nests before putting my pack down, or setting up a tent. But I still hit a nest I didn't see too often.

Trying to make sure they're all off the pack before putting it on again, is a challenge.
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Re: Ant season

Postby Tortoise » Mon 06 Dec, 2021 5:34 pm

Son of a Beach wrote:Are these the ants that make their nests in grass tussocks and small dense shrubs, at or just above ground level? Nasty little blighters!

Not sure, SoB. I was so busy trying to brush them off faster than they were climbing up my legs, I didn't check out their nests.
The pack-check is trickier than for leeches, because they move so fast. :shock:

Thanks Orion & d_l too. it's a shame ant season matches the long daylight hours!
Last edited by Tortoise on Fri 10 Dec, 2021 9:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ant season

Postby Osik » Fri 10 Dec, 2021 5:08 am

Some nice trips planned there tortoise! I had no troubles with them over a couple of nights on the curvier shelf between Christmas and New Years though I camped at the cliffs not far from where you pop onto the shelf looking towards Manfred rather than at the small waterfall further away (views >water).

Elysia on the other hand
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Re: Ant season

Postby Tortoise » Fri 10 Dec, 2021 9:26 am

Osik wrote:Some nice trips planned there tortoise!
:D
Thanks for the great intel.
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Re: Ant season

Postby biggbird » Sat 11 Dec, 2021 9:03 am

Pyramid had the most ants I have ever seen, all happily camped right on the summit.
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Re: Ant season

Postby Tortoise » Sat 11 Dec, 2021 9:49 am

biggbird wrote:Pyramid had the most ants I have ever seen, all happily camped right on the summit.

:lol: We'll be prepared to hit that summit and run!
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Re: Ant season

Postby north-north-west » Sat 11 Dec, 2021 12:17 pm

Not when I did it, although it wasn't summer so, yeah, maybe. It is the sort of ground where you'd expect them.
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Re: Ant season

Postby Tortoise » Sat 11 Dec, 2021 12:22 pm

north-north-west wrote:Not when I did it, although it wasn't summer so, yeah, maybe. It is the sort of ground where you'd expect them.

I've only ever had a problem with them in summer. But I love these long daylight hours...
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Re: Ant season

Postby JnT » Tue 18 Jan, 2022 8:41 am

Just came back from a trip up to Cuvier Shelf last week, can confirm they are active and annoying no matter where I tried to camp. Basically no places to sit and chill without getting smashed until after 7:30-8pm :D
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Re: Ant season

Postby Tortoise » Tue 18 Jan, 2022 8:48 am

Thanks for the update, JnT. As tempting as it is to use the long days in good weather, I know I'll enjoy it more if I can hold off till autumn. An ant-infested lunch the other day was a good reminder of how much I don't enjoy swatting bitey ants!
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Re: Ant season

Postby Son of a Beach » Sun 27 Feb, 2022 10:32 am

Son of a Beach wrote:Are these the ants that make their nests in grass tussocks and small dense shrubs, at or just above ground level? Nasty little blighters! (Not venemous, but very irritating.) I've learned to look carefully for their nests before putting my pack down, or setting up a tent. But I still hit a nest I didn't see too often.

Trying to make sure they're all off the pack before putting it on again, is a challenge.


I took a couple of photos of their nests near one of my campsites last week. Unfortunately, I only have a phone camera, and they didn't turn out too well... but here's what the nests look like...

ants1.jpeg
ants2.jpeg


At two camp sites last week I had to look very carefully for these nests before choosing where to erect the tent, or in fact where to put my pack on the ground, or stand or walk or do anything at all. No mater where I was I still got a few ants on me, but as long as I wasn't too close to a nest, I didn't get completely swarmed (my pack did once... grrr!).

At one of the camp sites, the only relief I could get from the ants was to either lie in my tent (with sleeping bag and pack liner draped over it to reduce the heat), or to stand on a rock in the nearby lake that was completely surrounded by water. So I alternated between these two positions for the rest of the day, after arriving at the camp site quite early.
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Re: Ant season

Postby doogs » Mon 28 Feb, 2022 9:02 am

are the annoying little ants confined to the Du Cane-Cuvier areas or are the further afield? I haven't encountered them elsewhere but they only seem to like the warmer days. Last summer I had a trip in great weather made miserable by the little buggers at my campsites in those areas. In particular I'm looking at the Central Plateau/Travellers/WOJ areas.
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Re: Ant season

Postby north-north-west » Mon 28 Feb, 2022 5:06 pm

This year they seem particularly bad, including the SW - Shining was a bit iffy in places, ditto Wugata and Battlement. Never had major problems with them on the CP or in the WoJ, but I'd still look around carefully before sitting/dropping pack/pitching.
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Re: Ant season

Postby Son of a Beach » Tue 01 Mar, 2022 7:09 am

doogs wrote:are the annoying little ants confined to the Du Cane-Cuvier areas or are the further afield? I haven't encountered them elsewhere but they only seem to like the warmer days. Last summer I had a trip in great weather made miserable by the little buggers at my campsites in those areas. In particular I'm looking at the Central Plateau/Travellers/WOJ areas.


I've encountered them in many places, including (off the top of my head): Western lakes & Chudleigh lakes (CP), Oenone, Raglan Range

I agree with others that this season they seem to be particularly bad.
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Re: Ant season

Postby Son of a Beach » Thu 14 Dec, 2023 9:13 am

Was just in the Labyrinth at Lake Elysia on Tuesday and I have never encountered the ants anything like it. Standing still anywhere in that area for more than half a second resulted in the ants crawling onto the shoes and then legs and biting. The swarming intensity of them was mind boggling.

Anything placed on the ground, or even hung from a tree, was very quickly covered in the ants. I literally had nightmares about them when I got back into my tent that night at Pine Valley. They were still crawling out of the pockets of my pack back at the camp site, when I opened it.

I think it may be due to a dry time of year in a particularly dry year. But the ranger back at Narcissus reckons it's fairly normal for up there, and it's a good way of discouraging camping in that area. (I wonder if PWS may have deliberately infested the area for this purpose.)

The only relief we got, and the only way it was possible to stand still, was to stand in the water. Even then, I actually watched some of them jump off the nearby rock and a nearby tree into the water and start swimming towards my legs. Just incredible.

Thankfully, I had my pack-raft already set up (had paddled across Cyane and Ophion already), so sitting in the raft was an option for me (after swatting off all the ants that were already on the raft). But no such luck for the others in our group.

Another bloke in our group swam across to the other sides and declared one of the little rocky islands there to be ant-free, so everyone walked around there, waded (knee-deep) onto the little islands and we were able to spend some time there sitting and eating lunch. There were a few ants there, but not enough to prevent us from relaxing and enjoying the location.

On the way back to Pine Valley, I experimented a few times. I found a few large flat rocks that seemed to be ant-free. I stood still in the middle of such a rock and watched and waited. Within just a few seconds, a small number of ants would start crawling towards me from the edges. A few seconds later there were more and more and more, and very soon, I would have to start doing the ant-dance again.

The ant-dance is a performance that I figured out which was both entertaining to those around me as well as the best way I could find to minimise the torture when standing in one place (eg, while waiting for people in front to move on). It goes like this:

  • Smack your right foot hard with your left foot.
  • Smack your left foot hard with your right foot.
  • Repeat endlessly.
  • Every stanza or so, shout out some swear word then bend down and swipe the painful spot on your leg to remove the attached ant that managed to avoid being knocked off the shoes by the smacking against each other.

Still, the views were worth it. I think.

Elysia_800.jpg
Avoiding the Ants
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Re: Ant season

Postby north-north-west » Thu 14 Dec, 2023 9:42 am

Those little bitey midge things are out in swarms as well. Worse than mozzies.
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Re: Ant season

Postby tassietramper » Thu 14 Dec, 2023 9:58 am

I recall being up in the Labyrinth about 15 years ago and going through a similar dance routine - ending up on a smallish rock out in the water in an attempt to avoid them.
They are possibly worse now but as the ranger has said, fairly normal for it to be a pain in the @ss when wanting to sit by the Lake on a nice day.
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Re: Ant season

Postby Mechanic-AL » Thu 14 Dec, 2023 10:01 am

Son of a Beach wrote:Was just in the Labyrinth at Lake Elysia on Tuesday and I have never encountered the ants anything like it. Standing still anywhere in that area for more than half a second resulted in the ants crawling onto the shoes and then legs and biting. The swarming intensity of them was mind boggling.


Hey SoB, do you recall how concentrated they were to Lake Elysia ? How far from the vicinity of the lake did you have to go to get some relief from the little buggers.
Planning a trip through there in early January but that doesn't sound like much fun.
( I've been up there on a bright sunny/warm day in December and haven't seen many at all ??? ).
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Re: Ant season

Postby Son of a Beach » Thu 14 Dec, 2023 11:11 am

Mechanic-AL wrote:
Son of a Beach wrote:Was just in the Labyrinth at Lake Elysia on Tuesday and I have never encountered the ants anything like it. Standing still anywhere in that area for more than half a second resulted in the ants crawling onto the shoes and then legs and biting. The swarming intensity of them was mind boggling.


Hey SoB, do you recall how concentrated they were to Lake Elysia ? How far from the vicinity of the lake did you have to go to get some relief from the little buggers.
Planning a trip through there in early January but that doesn't sound like much fun.
( I've been up there on a bright sunny/warm day in December and haven't seen many at all ??? ).


Once we left our little island sanctuary in Lake Elysia and started walking back towards Pine Valley, we were unable to stop (due to ants) until well past the Parthenon. Ie, until we had descended some distance down that long steep-ish hill. Two of our group summited Walled Mountain while we waited at Elysia and they said they had ants all the way up and down that mountain too.

Having said that, one of the blokes in our group had camped at Elysia several years ago and had no trouble with ants at all on that previous occasion.

So it's gotta be some combination of time-of-year, time-of-day, ground moisture and/or weather conditions (both on the day, and over the preceeding days).
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Re: Ant season

Postby farefam » Sat 06 Jan, 2024 7:49 pm

From the earlier posts, it is interesting how variable the swarming ants seem to be. In over two decades of walking in Tasmania (up to 2023), the only place these small ants were a noticeable problem for myself was at Cuvier Shelf, although if you wandered across to the rocky east edge they didn't seem to be a problem late in the day or early morning. That was in January 2018. Afterwards I had wondered whether the ants were just exceptionally busy that day, ahead of a cold front that hit the following afternoon.

I have never really noticed the ants on any of my visits to various spots on and around the Labyrinth over the years. My most recent trip there was also in January 2018. It would be interesting if the increase other users are talking about in the Labyrinth, is related to the manner in which the summers have really dried out during the last 5 years. Although I haven't noticed swarming ants anywhere in the southwest or along the east coast either during that same period. Is it an alpine to subalpine phenomenon?? Or maybe just by chance I mostly don't camp in ant hot spots.

Speaking of changes, compared to the early 90's, touch wood I rarely get leech bites anymore, even when pushing through scrub. I suspect that is related to the overall drying trend.

I find that in Jan-Feb the damned march flies and midges and mozzies are much more of a nuisance than ants or leeches ever have been.
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Re: Ant season

Postby north-north-west » Sun 07 Jan, 2024 6:09 am

Elysia has had a reputation for a lot longer than just five years. Whenn I camped there it was something like ten years ago and they were utterly insane from around 8am to 6pm. Never had any trouble on Walled or major issues elsewhere in the DuCanes, but they were a big issue last two times I was at Cuviier Shelf.

They're all over the Walls at the moment, inner and outer, with some locations worse than others.
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Re: Ant season

Postby headwerkn » Mon 08 Jan, 2024 8:34 am

The march flies seemed less aggressive over the past couple of weeks in the SW as they have in recent years. Mind you, it's still early Jan. Tonnes of jack jumpers out Lake Curly/Spires way, and some huge nests. Be careful where you rest your hands when pushing through scrub, as we learned the hard way...
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Re: Ant season

Postby gatesy » Mon 08 Jan, 2024 10:18 am

Heaps of jack jumpers on the port Davey track recently. Particularly Watershed Camp and another rough camp just north of lost world plateau. Heaps of small ants at Farrell Point side of the boat crossing even in the sand
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