Push to Combat Red Imported Fire Ant Threat in Oxley, Other Suburbs

fire ant

Efforts are intensifying towards a half-billion-dollar program addressing a persistent fire ant infestation impacting lives and the beloved Australian outdoor way of life in suburbs like Oxley, Seventeen Mile Rocks and Corinda.

Nearly 23 years following the initial infestation of the red imported fire ant at the Port of Brisbane, these ants have now infiltrated various areas, extending their reach from Brisbane to other locations. Councils have raised concerns over the disruptions that have been happening due to infestations.

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Per the Fire Ant Eradication map, here are just some of the reported fire ant infestations in the last 12 months: 

Oxley 52

Seventeen Mile Rocks 49

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Darra 35

Fig Tree Pocket 22

Corinda 18

Aside from Brisbane and the Gold Coast, isolated outbreaks have been detected in northern New South Wales, specifically in Murwillumbah and Wardell, which were likely propagated through the movement of infested topsoil from southeast Queensland.

Billions in Investment for Eradication

An additional half-billion-dollar investment is slated for the Queensland eradication effort by 2032, with a significant portion of federal funding allocated to nearly $300 million. 

Ashley Bacon, the program director of the National Fire Ant Eradication Program, remains optimistic about containment efforts, noting Australia’s comparatively slower spread rate of approximately four kilometres per year, in contrast to the United States and China.

However, scepticism persists among experts like Georgia Tech professor Michael Goodisman, who highlights the challenges posed by the ants’ rapid reproduction and resilience. Despite ongoing efforts, concerns linger regarding the efficacy of containment strategies.

While the eradication program primarily employs baiting methods to render fire ants infertile, the process is arduous and resource-intensive, with meticulous treatment spanning extensive areas surrounding infested sites.

Without intervention, the potential spread of fire ants could extend as far north as Bowen in Queensland, west to Longreach, and south to Canberra, posing substantial agricultural and environmental threats.

The National Allergy Centre of Excellence warns of staggering health impacts should fire ants become endemic in Australia, emphasizing the need for proactive measures to mitigate risks.

Why Worry About Fire Ants? 

Fire ants, originally from South America, first appeared in Brisbane in 2001, likely transported via ships docking at the Port of Brisbane. These tiny but aggressive insects, ranging from 2-6 mm, are known to swarm when disturbed and can hitch rides on various objects, including mulch and trucks. They’ve even been observed creating rafts from their bodies to navigate waterways.

Their copper-brown colouration with a darker abdomen makes them easily identifiable, with nests resembling mounds of dirt. Fire ants pose a significant threat to both humans and livestock, with encounters often resulting in painful stings. These stings can be particularly dangerous when multiple ants attack simultaneously, causing severe reactions and, in some cases, fatalities.

Fire ants can form super colonies with multiple queens and millions of ants. If you encounter a nest, it’s important not to spray it. Instead, photograph it from a safe distance and promptly alert the relevant authorities. For guidance on identifying nests and appropriate actions, visit https://www.fireants.org.au.