About the eradication program

  • Fire ant survey helicopter in flight
    Fire ant survey helicopter in flight

The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program formally commenced in September 2001, building on an emergency response after the discovery of fire ants in February 2001. The program is nationally funded by all Australian states and territories as well as the Commonwealth Government.

The program aims to eradicate this exotic pest, building on expertise shared by international specialists in this field, the program is discovering patterns of ant activity and developing new ways of beating the ants as new challenges arise.

As well as scientific and operational innovations and effort, community support is crucial in the fight to eliminate fire ants from Australia. The support from the South East Queensland community has been vital in reducing the number of fire ants and we urge all community members to continue to be on the lookout for fire ants. Please call 13 25 23 to report any suspicious ant activity.

Quick facts about the eradication program

  • Fire ants were first discovered at the Port of Brisbane and at Richlands in February 2001. It is estimated that fire ants were here at least 20 years prior to this. Fortunately, we believe the pest was identified before it had caused significant damage or spread too far for eradication.
  • Genetic analysis reveals there have been four different incursions of fire ants into Australia. In 2001 two incursions were discovered, one in the south western suburbs of Brisbane and the other at the Port of Brisbane. The third and fourth incursions were found in Yarwun, Central Queensland in 2006 and 2013. Both the Port of Brisbane and the 2006 Yarwun incursions have been successfully eradicated
  • Spread from the initial Brisbane infestation led to a number of small outlying infestations around the greater Brisbane area including Ipswich Logan and Redlands. Isolated infestations have also been found in the Scenic Rim, Gold coast and Lockyer Valley areas.

Odour detection dog sniffing out fire ants

Odour detection dogs can find nests undetectable to the human eye.

Surveillance

Surveillance for fire ants is undertaken by field officers and odour detection dogs on the ground and by helicopters using remote sensing technology from the air.

Field officers visually check the ground, forming emu parades over large properties. Officers carry long sticks and prod piles of earth and tap pot plants to aid their visual search.

Odour detection dogs can find fire ant nests in difficult terrain and can sniff out one solitary ant. They are more efficient and sensitive than visual surveillance, because their noses can find nests not apparent to the human eye. Our use of these dogs is a world first.

Revolutionary new technology has been developed that facilitates the identification of fire ants from 150 metres in the air. A unique infra red and thermal camera system is mounted to a helicopter that can pinpoint fire ants nests while the chopper is in flight over large areas. This is a world first in fire ant detection technology.

Fire ant nest treated with injection of chemicals

Fire ant nests are promptly destroyed by a direct nest injection.

Treatment

Fire ant nests are treated by a direct nest injection of chemicals and is carried out by qualified pest management technicians. The process involves spearing a rod into the ground around the nest and flooding the nest and tunnels with insecticide. The nest is also lightly showered with the liquid treatment.

The surrounding area is then baited with a granular corn base bait that has been coated with a soybean oil and an insect growth regulator chemical either methoprene or pyriproxyfen. The worker ants are attracted to the bait, carrying it into the nest and feeding it to the colony. This treatment process leads to the queen becoming sterile and over the following months the colony will eventually die out.

The treatment only affects insects and does not harm people, animals or the environment. A person or animal would need to eat at least his or her own body weight of bait within 24 hours for any likelihood of sickness. Only very small quantities of bait (1/2 teaspoon per square metre) are used. The bait is formulated to be attractive to fire ants, with other insects unlikely to take it up. The chemicals used break down quickly in sunlight and contains less than 1% active chemical.

The bait is broadcast across designated treatment areas by Biosecurity Queensland officers using hand held spreaders, on all-terrain vehicles, or aerially from helicopters. The method of distribution is dependant on the size of the property.

Containment

To prevent fire ants spreading to new areas, a restricted area has been established and movement controls are in place for restricted items that could carry fire ants. Residents and businesses operating inside the declared restricted area must adhere to the movement regulations .

Related information

Last updated 08 May 2013