From the Newsroom

Residents are urged to be on the lookout for Red Fire Ant colonies that can form rafts. Image: contributed

Rain increases Fire Ant threat

Rodney Stevens

Recent rain and wild weather has prompted The Invasive Species Council to call on residents of northern NSW to be on alert for Fire Ants following concerns the weather could accelerate the spread of the invasive pest.

In late November 2023, five imported red Fire Ant nests were found on a vacant block in an industrial estate on Quarry Road, South Murwillumbah, and they were quickly destroyed by Tweed Shire Council staff working with the Department of Primary Industries.

This was the first time the pest, which could have a $2 billion per year impact on Australia’s economy if they get out of control, was detected in NSW.

The Invasive Species Council is concerned that Fire Ants can form rafts during flood events or high rain, or stowaway in freight or soil, increasing their spread into NSW.

“The recent heavy rainfall and wild weather in the region could accelerate the spread of fire ants, one of the world’s worst invasive species,” said Invasive Species Council Advocacy Manager Reece Pianta.

“Fire ants are more active before or after rainfall and can form large floating rafts which move with water currents to establish footholds in new areas. 

“We have recently seen evidence of this rafting behaviour on cane farms south of Brisbane.

“The good news is that it will be easier to spot fire ants and their nests at this time.

“We are therefore calling on the community to be on the lookout for fire ants, including in their backyards, local parks, beaches or bushland. 

“It’s really easy to do your part. Just take a picture of any suspicious ants and report it.”

Fire ants are dark reddish-brown with a darker black-brown abdomen and range in size from two to six millimetres long.

Their nests are distinctive mounds of loose, crumbly or fluffy-looking soil with a honeycomb appearance, up to 40 centimetres high, with no obvious entrance holes.

Fire Ants can damage electrical and agricultural equipment, sting people, pets and livestock, kill native plants and animals, and damage ecosystems beyond repair.

A Biosecurity Order is in place restricting the movement of mulch, woodchips, compost, sand, gravel, soil, hay and other baled products, from the Fire Ant infested area of Queensland into NSW, and from the Fire Ant movement control area in South Murwillumbah.

People found breaching the Biosecurity Order could face significant penalties with fines for breaches reaching up to $1.1 million for an individual and up to $2.2 million for a corporation.

If you spot what you think could be Fire Ants or their nest in NSW, take a photo of the ants or nest and call the NSW DPI on 1800 680 244 or report sightings online at 


Discovery of invasive species at Wardell fires up community concerns

Emma Pritchard

Vox Pops continues from the above article…

As the dangerous pests move closer to the Clarence Valley, the Clarence Valley Independent hit the streets and asked the question, “how concerned are you about fire ants spreading into NSW?”

Tony Gray: The Clarence Valley is home to a thriving primary industries community which is worth billions of dollars, and with these pests already detected in other areas of Northern NSW (Murwillumbah and Wardell), I think it’s only a matter of time before we’re fighting them in our own backyard. I understand the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSWDPI) is doing everything they can, but what exactly is the NSW Government doing? There is no clear action plan in place. To quote a golden old saying, prevention is better than a cure, and I reckon the NSW Premier Chris Minns feels too safe and secure in his office to warrant doing anything about this crisis we could soon be facing. These pests are already more than 80km south of the border. The NSW Government need to take action and they need to take it now.

Annette Miron: I’m confident the NSWDPI have the resources to effectively prevent fire ants from spreading further across the state because so far all of the nests which have been found outside Queensland have been identified, reported, and destroyed within a day. If everyone remains proactive and mindful of their movements when moving pot plants or soil around, I think we stand a good chance of protecting the rest of NSW from these harmful insects.

Adeeva Khadji: I am very worried about the discovery of fire ants in NSW. I enjoy gardening with my kids, and now I am worried that our safety will soon be under threat. Fire ants are very dangerous. I’m worried that one of my kids may be bitten and become sick because we spend a lot of time outside in our yard. I hope they can be stopped before they spread further.

Kay Barton: It’s all very well to set up biosecurity control borders and to successfully destroy nests which have reported in NSW, but the damage has already been done. The fact that these invasive pests have already made it across the border from Queensland goes to show that earlier eradication programs have not worked. I’m very concerned. The discovery of fire ants in Murwillumbah and now at Wardell is terrifying. A lot of my friends live on acreage in the Clarence and Richmond Valleys. They have all have small animals, which for some of them is their livelihood, and the NSW Government has really got to step up and do whatever they can to help support people in rural and regional communities who stand to lose everything if these fire ants aren’t stopped.