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Fire ant warning for quarries

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Queensland and New South Wales quarries are being warned to remain vigilant over the potential spread of fire ants across the border.

Biosecurity measures are increasing to prevent the potential spread of fire ants into New South Wales. Respective government bodies expect demand for quarry supplies and livestock feed to rise, which could create pathways for fire ants to enter NSW.

Fire ants are considered high-risk to infiltrate several products, including quarry products, soil, hay, fodder, mulch, manure and turf products.

“The best defence we have is individual responsibility and to have everyone observing the rules around the safe movement of these materials, so it’s important that everyone is aware of how they can help prevent the spread of these invasive pests,” NSW Agriculture Minister Tara Moriarty said.

A cross-border task force has been considered with biosecurity compliance experts from the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QLD DAF), the National Fire Ant Eradication Program and NSW Police.

Australia has significant investments in fire ant prevention through the National Fire Ant Eradication Program. NSW has committed $95 million to the program over the next four years.

“We are throwing everything at our efforts to stop fire ants in their tracks because we know the potential impact they could have on our health, our lifestyle and our economy if they crossed the border into NSW,” Moriarty said.

“To further boost our compliance activities, we are conducting site inspections on both sides of the border and harnessing the capabilities of existing fixed camera systems at crucial road crossings between NSW and Queensland.

“This camera technology is normally used to conduct livestock movement surveillance but will be critical in helping us spot high-risk materials being moved illegally across the border.”

Government bodies estimate Australia will lose $2 billion in economic activity if fire ants are not contained.

Program Executive for the National Fire Ant Eradication Program, Ashley Bacon, said industries, like quarries, and local communities needed to work together in prevention.

“Eradicating fire ants requires a whole-of-community approach,” she said.

“Community, business, industry and all levels of government all have a legal responsibility to look for, report and stop the spread of fire ants, including by treating and mitigating the risk of moving the pest.

“By working together, we can protect the Australian way of life we know and love from fire ants.”

What you need to know about fire ants (per the National Fire Ant Eradication Program):

What do they look like?

  • Copper brown in colour with a darker abdomen
  • Quite small at 2 – 6 mm. It is found in a variety of sizes in one nest.
  • Nests can appear dome-shaped or flat and look like a small patch of disturbed soil. Shape and size depend on soil type and colony size.

Why are they a concern?

  • Fire ants are aggressive when nests are disturbed. They move quickly and swarm.
  • Stings cause a painful burning and itching sensation. Multiple stings make it feel like the body is on fire.
  • Stings can lead to severe and sometimes fatal allergic reactions.
  • The ants have the potential to inhabit most of Australia, causing environmental, social and economic impacts.

How were they introduced?

  • Fire ants were first detected in Brisbane, Queensland, in February 2001. It is thought that they may have arrived up to 20 years earlier.
  • It’s believed they may have entered the country in shipping containers from America.

 

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