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Fire ant fight targeting threatened agriculture

GROUND ZERO: People inspect a fire ant nest after a demonstration in Laidley South to show how the nests are destroyed.
GROUND ZERO: People inspect a fire ant nest after a demonstration in Laidley South to show how the nests are destroyed. Rob Williams

THOSE on the frontline of the fight against fire ants are battling the pests in rural areas where the potential for harm is highest.

Fire ants can significantly affect the agriculture industry with baby animals particularly vulnerable to attacks that can lead to death.

Young animals have also been stung in and around the eyes, which can lead to blindness and around the mouth and nose, which can lead to swelling and suffocation. Fire ants also invade animals' food and water supplies; unable to reach the food or water without being seriously stung, they can starve or dehydrate.

Fire ants sometimes feed on seeds, and can fatally damage plants by tunnelling through roots and stems.

Yesterday, a demonstration of direct injecting fire ant nests was conducted at Laidley by the Biosecurity Queensland Control Centre.

Director Mike Ashton said it involved injecting the mound with a spear rod that injects a knock down chemical called fipronil.

"The perimeter is treated first so all escape tunnels are closed, then the centre is treated to flood the chambers. The surface of the mound is then showered," Mr Ashton said. "The area around the nest is also treated with a corn grit bait containing an insect growth regulator."

The fire ant eradication program started in 2001.

"Of four known incursions into Queensland since that time, two have been eradicated (one in Brisbane and one in Gladstone)," Mr Ashton said.

"The two remaining incursions were discovered in the south western suburbs of Brisbane in 2001 and in Yarwun, Gladstone in 2013. A number of small outlying infestations are located in Ipswich, Logan, Redlands, Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley.

"Hay production and shipments are of particular concern in the Lockyer Valley region, as bailed hay provides a perfect nesting environment for fire ants.

"Biosecurity Queensland conducts training sessions for individuals and businesses that operate within the fire ant restricted area and deal with restricted items."

To report any suspect ants, phone 132 523 or visit daff.qld.gov.au/fireants.

Fire ant facts

  • Small 2-6 mm.
  • Variety of sizes within each nest
  • Head and body are coppery-brown, abdomen is darker.
  • Aggressive, particularly near the nest.
  • Can inflict a painful sting.

Topics:  biosecurity queensland fire ants



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