26 October 2019
The 2019-20 fire ant treatment season has commenced, with warmer ground temperatures bringing the ants out of hibernation and on the move.
The treatment season runs annually from September to June and is part of the government’s 411.4 million 10-year plan to eradicate fire ants from Australia.
So, is the current eradication program succeeding?
In the past, there has been strong criticism from members of the community about this program and its cost. That criticism continues today. There have even been calls for a Royal Commission. However, the calls for a review reflect a lack of appreciation and understanding of the program; a review is already underway per the program’s schedule.
Wildlife Queensland is hoping for a successful outcome from this eradication program. The recent positive news that some success has been met in the Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim and parts of Ipswich local government area, confirmed by reports from landholders stating ‘there used to be fire ants, now there are none,’ was certainly welcomed.
Certain sectors of the community share Wildlife Queensland’s view that this time, underpinned by lessons learnt from the first failed program to control and eradicate these pests, there is a likelihood of success otherwise they would not have petitioned to have the program introduced in areas of the Gold Coast.
Whole community response needed
Until June 2020, ground and aerial crews will be spreading fire ant baits across areas of the Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim, Ipswich, Logan and the Gold Coast. Petitioners have had their plea not only heard but acted upon.
There appears to be growing confidence that further evidence of the control strategy working will become apparent at the end of this control season.
One thing is for certain, for this program to work there needs to be a whole community response ‒ residents, businesses and industry, and above all, all levels of government. Everyone has an obligation – that is even enshrined in legislation ‒ to be observant and proactive in reporting the presence of fire ants. Such action is essential to prevent the spread of fire ants and ultimately win the war against this aggressive introduced pest for the benefit of the community and our wildlife.
No one is suggesting that it will be easy but the recent positive reports from landholders certainly inject a glimmer of hope. If it can be established that action to date has at least contained the spread of fire ants within the western boundary, that will be a positive indication that this new approach and the current strategy is working.
Wildlife Queensland urges landholders and travellers through the designated fire ant control region to report any sighting of fire ants and their nests.
How to spot fire ants and their nests
Fire ant nests: Look like mounds of loose sifted soil with no entry or exit holes.
The ants tend to like open warm areas such as:
- open grassy areas
- sunny garden beds.
Fire ants also like moist areas near taps.
NB. This is a general guide.
Red imported fire ants: Are between 2-6 mm. They are a copper-brown colour with a darkened abdomen.
For more help identifying fire ants, watch this informative Queensland Government fire ant video.
If you come across fire ants, report your sighting using the Queensland Government’s Fire Ants and Electric Ants Portal.