In the wake of heavy rains and disastrous flooding, Queenslanders are now facing a new enemy – only this time, it’s in the form of a crustacean: lawn prawns.
Eleven years on from the devastating flooding of 2011, this year an estimated 15,000 homes have received water damage in Brisbane alone, with thousands more facing catastrophic emergency levels across South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales.
While rainfall has remained uncharacteristically strong even throughout winter, the prospect of a third La Niña weather pattern isn’t exactly filling most Australians with excitement. Although we’ve hopefully seen the last of any major flooding events, the wet weather has heralded the arrival of a creature not often seen in backyards and gardens this far north: lawn prawns.
Although some homeowners pay them no mind, others have mistaken these odd looking land crustaceans for fleas, or a far more insidious insect – but what exactly are lawn prawns and do they pose any real danger?
Why Lawn Prawns Have Popped Up In Queensland
Also known as forest hoppers or water fleas, lawn prawns are tiny crustaceans that have appeared in Queensland homes in the wake of an extremely wet few months. While commonly mistaken for a fleas, these small creatures are actually a type of crustacean known as amphipods. Unlike crabs, crayfish, lobsters and prawns with five pairs of legs, the lawn prawns had seven pairs, and have also adapted to living life full time on land instead of in the ocean.
At roughly seven millimetres in length, lawn prawns can come out of lawns and soil at night after large periods of rain, and often enter lowset homes, pet bowls, swimming pools and other human environments. However, in a tragic turn of events, they often die by morning, which is why most Queenslanders only have dead specimens to report.
For those left unnerved at the sight of lawn prawns and fear a wider infestation, the good news is that they are harmless to humans and pets. While not traditionally common in pockets of suburbia and built up areas, lawn prawns are actually widespread across parts of Queensland and New South Wales, often in forestry where there is plenty of rainfall and warm conditions.
In these types of environments, amphipods such as lawn prawns feed on microorganisms in the soil, and contribute to the decomposition of the forest floor. While they may not be the prettiest resident of a rainforest, their role is to help ensure that the ecosystem ticks along as it should.
Unlike their ocean based cousins, lawn prawns don’t breathe underwater, and are therefore also at risk of being flooded during large bouts of rainfall. Much like us, their default escape route is to seek dry higher ground, which is why they are suddenly appearing in residential properties in Queensland and New South Wales.
While their appearance leaves homeowners to assume that they are a pest and must be eradicated, Shane Ahyong disagrees. As a research scientist on marine invertebrates at the Australian Museum, his message is to celebrate their presence while it lasts.
“It’s not very often people see them, and that’s why it’s quite surprising for people to find them in their homes. Usually they’re hidden, and unless you’re looking for them, you won’t find them. The key message is don’t see them as a threat, see them as a benefit,” he said.
“Crustaceans are actually playing a really important role in the ecosystem. They act as a recycler, improving soil by eating decaying leaves and breaking down organic matter. Don’t use pesticides as they will kill the lawn prawns, and having a lot of them in your leaf litter is actually a sign of a healthy system.”
As such, maybe the presence of lawn prawns should be considered a blessing instead of a curse. To ensure that you strike the right balance between tackling weeds and other less savoury pests without disturbing lawn prawns and other native creatures, using a chemical free weed killer is a must – but where do you find one?
Introducing A Safer Way To Spray
Bioweed is an organic, non selective weed killer that works fast on contact with the weed, in order to rapidly desiccate and burn even the most stubborn of plants. It can be used anywhere around the house including garden beds, veggie patches, paths and driveways, and is safe to use around children, animals and even native wildlife.
The best part? Bioweed is the brainchild of well established agricultural leaders greenPRO, and is backed by over twenty years of research and development. Owned and manufactured in Australia, the primary ingredient of Bioweed is actually sustainably sourced pine oil, and is even approved by NASAA, ACO and APVMA for use around organic farms and food production.
If you’re on the hunt for a nature friendly weed killer, or simply want to know more about eliminating weeds safely – check out other tips and tricks in our online advice forum, or contact us for any further queries.