Fire Ants Spotted in South East Queensland
Recently an Applied Environment & Safety employee spotted a suspected fire ants nest in their front yard. They spotted a loose mound of soil with no entry or exit holes. This was a key fire ant nest indicator that they recalled from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program training from years ago.
The suspected nest was reported using the National Fire Ant Eradication Program’s (NFAEP) online reporting form. Two days later a crew from the NFAEP visited to confirm the nest was fire ants, take a sample of the ants, treat the nest and provide our employee with some tips on further reporting and treatment.
A couple months and a second round of treatment later, the ants are no longer present in their yard.
If you live or work in South East Queensland, keeping an eye out for fire ants is important to help eradicate fire ants from Australia. The following information on identification, reporting, treatment and training can assist in contributing to the effort.
Looking for Fire Ants
Fire ants may be small, but they can have devastating consequences on our environment, economy, human health and outdoor way of life. They can destroy crops, damage machinery, kill native flora and fauna and render backyards and parks unusable. In rare cases, fire ant stings can also lead to a severe and sometimes fatal reaction in humans.
Fire ants and their nests
Unlike other ants, fire ants are aggressive and will swarm when disturbed. They are also smaller and look a little different than you might think. Their distinguishing features are:
– Copper brown in colour with a darker abdomen;
– Measure 2 – 6 mm in size; and
– Come in a variety of sizes in the one nest.
Their nests can appear as mounds or flat patches of loose sifted soil with no obvious or exit holes. They are commonly found in warm, open areas such as:
– Footpaths and driveways;
– Garden beds and piles of organic matter;
– Near water sources, including taps, dams and irrigation lines;
– Utility pits;
– Edges of cultivated land;
– Cropland post-harvest; and
– Fence lines.
When looking for fire ants, ensure you wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as boots and gloves. If you find a suspect ant or nest, use a long stick and gently prod the nest, and inspect any ants present.
Don’t spread fire ants
Fire ants are highly mobile and adaptive, the greatest risk to spread is human-assisted movement. They disperse quite slowly on their own, but people speed them up through the movement of organic materials. If disturbed, a fire ant queen can fly up to 5 km to start a new nest and raft on water following floods and wet weather events.
The pest likes to nest in soil, baled hay, mulch, manure, quarry products, turf and potted plants. This is why people working with these materials in South East Queensland, at home or at work, should follow the fire ant biosecurity zones and movement restrictions in the Biosecurity Regulation 2016. Penalties can apply to individuals or companies found to move the pest.
Under the Biosecurity Act 2014, all Queenslanders have a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to manage any biosecurity risks and threats:
– Under their control;
– That they know about; and
– That they are expected to know about.
Fire ant biosecurity zones are in place to help prevent fire ants from spreading through human-assisted movement.
Reporting Fire Ants
Known or suspected ants can be reported to the NFAEP by calling 13 25 23 or by completing their online reporting form.
Find out more information here: Reporting process | National Fire Ant Eradication Program (fireants.org.au).
Fire Ant Treatments
Eradicating fire ants requires a whole-of-community approach. This includes homeowners and tenants, businesses and all levels of government. It is a legal requirement under the Biosecurity Act 2014 for everyone to take all reasonable steps to stop fire ants from spreading. This starts with reporting fire ants within 24 hours of finding them.
More details on treatment options for residential, business and industry and schools and sports grounds can be found here: Treat | National Fire Ant Eradication Program (fireants.org.au).
Fire Ant Training
The NFAEP have created free self-paced online courses to support general residents, community groups, tradespeople who work outdoors, school staff and primary producers in learning more about fire ants and how to manage them. The training can be completed on a computer, laptop or mobile device. There are three specific training packages available:
2. Fire ant training for workplaces; and