Australia's unusual animal takeovers

Christine McGinn

Mice in dishwashers, crabs the size of an adult hand and corellas wreaking havoc: it's all just another day in Australia's diverse world of nature.

It seems there's no shortage of wacky phenomena across the sunburnt country.

Plagues of mice cause mayhem on farms in Victoria where Goornong resident Chanel Healey has plucked them from her dishwasher, pantry, cupboards and under the bed from late April.

"We believe they are field mice coming in from the paddocks," she told AAP.

"They are an absolute pain in the arse and we need to get rid of them."

CSIRO researcher Steve Henry says an 'outbreak' is classified as 800 mice per hectare, but 200 per hectare were enough to have devastating impacts for farmers.

"Mice in regional Victoria over the last 18 months have got to plague proportions in some areas," Mr Henry told AAP.

For locals on Christmas Island, northwest of Australia's mainland, red crabs leaving their forest homes and walking the streets in a mass exodus to the sea during the wet season to breed is considered normal.

"This is timed so neatly and beautifully. They have eggs under the tail and shake, males do the same with sperm to fertilise in the wave wash," Monash University School of Biological Sciences senior lecturer Rohan Clarke told AAP.

Adult crabs slink back to the forest while the new offspring - only millimetres in size - make their own way later without the same spectacle, Dr Clarke said.

Bogong moths are the talk of the town in Canberra each November when thousands descend on Australia's political heartland.

They move from Queensland and northwestern NSW to southern Australia to hibernate.

But they are messy folk - often ending up in tea cups or setting off alarms - with extra hands often on deck to help sweep up parliament.

Corellas noisily damaged homes on Adelaide's northern suburbs in March and moved onto Melbourne, joining up with other families to make flocks.

Dr Clarke said while corellas had a reputation for being on the move a lot, they only formed huge flocks for up to two months, before returning to their nests in late winter.

"In Melbourne there have been at least 500 corellas in a single flock - up from 20 birds a month ago," he said in April.

The birds are a "winner" species as they've advantageously adapted to urban ecology in the past decade, he said.

The population soared along Australia's east coast and Perth after they became pets in the 1980s - instead of being culled - but they made "terrible" domestic animals.

"All they do is scream and bite if put in a cage," Dr Clarke said.

"It was a poor management wildlife decision ... so we've ended up with corellas in urban areas that do not normally exist. It was a bad decision in hindsight."

Swarms of yellow-winged locusts in the Pilbara and Kimberley during the wet season this year damaged crops in the wheatbelt region for farmers.

"There can be more than one generation of yellow-winged locusts in the season," WA environment department research officer Svetlana Micic said of the 30-50cm critters.

Thousands of wasps have called Daylesford, in regional Victoria, home since the 1990s with the "vicious buggers" invading in autumn, wasp whisperer Ron Layfield told AAP.

But it's not just flying critters that have wreaked havoc across Australia.

Wangaratta residents battle giant tumbleweeds every February and March with home-owners clambering over the 2m high hairy panic grass to get out the front door.

Portuguese millipedes come out from the soil in hot dry weather in southern Australia during spring and autumn to eat leaf litter.

The insects were even blamed for a train crash in Perth in 2013 after many were crushed on the tracks which allegedly made it slippery.

So watch out, there could be something wacky coming to your hometown.


*Mice in regional Victoria in April

*Red Crabs on Christmas Island in December

*Canberra's Bogong moths in November

*Corellas in Adelaide and Melbourne in autumn

*Wasps in Daylesford in autumn

*Giant tumbleweeds in Wangaratta in February/March

*Portuguese millipedes in Adelaide in spring/autumn