The dreaded and dangerous fire ant is headed for Australia’s Lockyer Valley, source of much of Queensland’s fresh produce, and it’s also a worry in south-western Sydney.
Fire ants (also called Red Imported Fire Ants, or RIFA) have been in and around Brisbane for the past 15 years but until now have only been found in towns like Ipswich and the outer suburban areas. But BioSecurity Queensland has recently confirmed the discovery of fire ant nests close to the Brisbane CBD and also near the market-gardening areas of the Lockyer Valley, with nests located at Forest Hill, Blenheim and Laidley in February and March 2015.
Head of BioSecurity Queensland, Sarah Corcoran, says:
“It would have serious impacts on the production of the crops if they become established”
Trained sniffer dogs are now hunting for other nests in the area. Nests are destroyed by the use of sterilising baits which are taken inside the nest by worker ants, eventually reaching the queen who is then unable to reproduce.
Fire ants were also discovered in Decembber 2014 at Port Botany in Sydney’s south, prompting NSW Department of Primary Industries to declare a 500-hectare surveillance area.
Fire ants are aggressive and attack en masse when disturbed, giving both humans and animals a painful, persistent sting followed by a white pustule. In a vegetable growing area where most crops are hand harvested, this puts farm workers and significant risk. Their mound-building also damages crops and irrigation.
If you see an ant nest that you suspect could be fire ants contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline ph 1800 084 881