Fire Ants in South East Queensland
I attended the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program environmental training yesterday. This training provided an overview of the impacts, identification and management of fire ants which I have summarised below.
Fire ants with a scientific name of Solenopsis invicta which means “sun-loving” and “undefeated or unconquered” provides great insight into these aggressive pests which have spread across south east Queensland. These ants were first detected in the Brisbane area in 2001 and pose a serious social, economic and environmental threat.
Fire ants are a notifiable pest under the Plant Protection Act 1989 (Qld), so everyone has the responsibility to report suspected sightings of fire ants to Biosecurity Queensland to prevent being fined.
People: These ants have a very painful sting that causes a burning sensation. The sting can cause a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
Environment: Fire ants are very aggressive and omnivorous feeders which can prey on small native fauna species including insects, spiders, lizards, frogs, birds and mammals.
Economic: Fire ants can significantly impact on the agricultural, tourism and recreational industries.
The distinguishing points to identify fire ants from native ants are:
- They are quite small and typically range in size (2-6mm) within one nest.
- Their heads and bodies are beer bottle brown and their abdomens are darker.
- They are very aggressive, particularly if the nest is disturbed.
- Their nest is made of soft loose soil with no entrance or exit on mound.
All businesses have a responsibility to actively manage the risks of fire ants including taking all reasonable steps to prevent fire ants from spreading. This includes the movement of soil from or within fire ant restricted areas.
Photo Source: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland Government website