From the Newsroom

Fire Ant warning for region

Rodney Stevens


Clarence Valley residents are reminded to be on the lookout for fire ants after the dangerous insects were detected last month at Tallebudgera, just over five kilometres from the NSW border.

The imported pest was first discovered at the Port of Brisbane in 2001 and now fire ants, which can cause serious social, economic, and environmental harm, currently infest about 600,000 hectares in south-east Queensland.

The insects have also been found at Mermaid Waters, Tabooba, Kleinton, Carrara, Worongary, Mudgeeraba and Innisplain, with the closeness of the southeast Queensland infestation making fire ants one of the highest biosecurity risks to NSW.

To combat the pests, the NSW Government will spend an extra $80 million over the next four years to protect the state from this invasive and aggressive pest marching toward the border.

NSW Agriculture Minister Tara Moriarty said it was vitally important to keep NSW free from fire ants as they can have a huge impact on our lives and could impact export markets and our ability to trade.

“Red imported fire ants can damage electrical and agricultural equipment, sting people causing allergic reactions, sting pets and livestock, kill native plants and animals as well as damage ecosystems beyond repair,” she said.

“Containing the spread of fire ants will provide an estimated economic benefit of more than $1 billion per year in avoided costs and impacts, which is why we have committed $80 million over the next 4 years to protect NSW and partner in the ongoing response to red imported fire ant.”

Fire ants are aggressive with a severe sting and large numbers of the ants will swarm onto an animal or a person, stinging repeatedly, causing the sensation of being on fire.

As a result of the threat, materials such as mulch, woodchip, soil, compost, sand, gravel, baled hay, turf, and other high-risk material cannot be moved from within a 5km radius of the site where fire ants were found unless it had been inspected and issued with a certificate by the Queensland Agriculture Department.

As part of the program, NSW DPI is working with councils in north-eastern NSW and Queensland authorities to alert locals to be on the lookout for fire ants.

Fire ants are dark reddish-brown with a darker black-brown abdomen and from 2- to 6-millimetres long.

Although they can look similar to other ants, their nests are distinctive with mounds of loose, crumbly or fluffy looking soil with a honeycomb appearance.

Fire ants can be found in sunny open areas, including lawns, parks, school grounds, sports fields, golf courses, gardens, foreshores, paddocks, disturbed soil, and roadsides.

Residents and businesses are advised to check their properties and call NSW DPI on 1800 680 244 if there are any signs of fire ants, as early detection aids successful eradication.