Red imported fire ant response in full swing on Darling Downs

Senator the Hon Murray Watt
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Australia’s National Fire Ant Eradication Program (NFAEP) led by the Queensland Government has carried out treatment across more than 2,400 hectares in the Toowoomba region as it works to stamp out the invasive pest Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA).

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt said fire ant teams have been working tirelessly across the region since the detection at Oakey Army Aviation Centre in April.

“I understand community concerns about this invasive and destructive pest,” Minister Watt said.

“It’s essential that the NFAEP response is fast and methodical. Strong processes are in place for the surveillance and destruction of fire ant nests and I have been impressed by the work I’ve seen on the ground to date.

“NFAEP not only responds quickly to new detections, they are also instrumental in ensuring fire ants don’t get a foot hold in Australia.

“An example is the detection this month of 3 nests in Meringandan West by odour detection dogs conducting compliance tracing activities in the area.

“Within just 5 days of the Meringandan West detection, the team at NFAEP had surveyed more than 40 surrounding hectares. Both surveillance and treatment within 500 metres of the nests are expected to be complete this week and more is underway.

“Meanwhile, at Oakey a fire ant biosecurity zone is now in effect for a 5-kilometre radius around the Oakey Army Aviation Centre, which means no organic material can be moved from the area unless fire ant-safe practices are followed.

“Fire ant compliance officers have carried out nearly 50 visits to high-risk businesses in the area, informing operators about the zone changes and educating them about the requirements.”

Minister Watt said he was pleased to hear local businesses and residents were responding positively to the work and aligning business practices to the changes brought by the establish of the fire ant biosecurity zone.

“Biosecurity is a shared responsibility, and I am not surprised to hear that Queenslanders have worked well with the NFAEP in response to these detections.”

“The Australian Government is taking a large share of the responsibility to getting rid of this pest by providing $296.4 million over 4 years to 2027. This is half of the total national commitment of $592.8 million, with the other 50 percent provided by states and territories, and nearly 4 times the previous commitment.

“The additional funding will allow NFAEP to intensify efforts to contain and shrink affected fire ant areas in South-East Queensland. The goal is to eradicate the species by 2032.

“We are investing more than ever into the program to escalate its capacity and capabilities, including scaling up operations to strengthen treatment, containment and compliance and more than doubling the workforce.”

Fire ants are copper brown in colour and have a darker abdomen. They measure 2-6 millimetres in length with a variety of sizes found in each nest. Fire ant nests appear as mounds or patches of loose soil and have no obvious entry or exit holes.

Fire ants are attracted to disturbed soil and can be transported through human-assisted movement of organic materials. This is the greatest risk to their spread and can have devasting impacts on our environment, economy, human and animal health, and our outdoor way of life.


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