THE New South Wales Government will spend an additional $80 million to protect the state from red imported fire ants, with the invasive and aggressive pest now on the march towards the NSW border from Queensland.
NSW Minister for Agriculture Tara Moriarty said red imported fire ants caused serious social, economic and environmental harm.
“It is important to keep NSW free from red imported fire ants, because if they become established in NSW, it will have a huge impact on the way we live our lives and could affect our export markets and ability to trade,” Ms Moriarty said.
“Red imported fire ants can damage electrical and agricultural equipment, sting people causing allergic reactions, sting pets and livestock, kill native plants and animals as well as damage ecosystems beyond repair.
“Containing the spread of fire ants will provide an estimated economic benefit of more than $1 billion per year in avoided costs and impacts, which is why we have committed $80M over the next four years to protect NSW and partner in the ongoing response to Red Imported Fire Ant.”
Red imported fire ants have recently been detected at Mermaid Waters in Queensland, just 11.5km north of the NSW border, and nests have been found at Mudgeeraba, Carrara, Worongary, and Innisplain, all within 18km of NSW.
“The NSW Department of Primary Industries is working closely with councils in the north-east of the state, and Queensland bodies, to alert locals to be on the lookout for red imported fire ants.”
DPI has enacted a fire ant surveillance program and is ready to respond if the fire ants are found.
“However, we also need the support of the community to spot their march and be on the lookout for them.”
Fire ants are dark reddish-brown with a darker black-brown abdomen and 2-6mm in length.
While they can look similar to other ants, their nests are distinctive with mounds of loose, crumbly or fluffy looking soil with a honeycomb appearance.
“Look for them in sunny open areas, including lawns, parks, school grounds, sports fields, golf courses, gardens, foreshores, paddocks, disturbed soil and roadsides.”
Residents and businesses should check their properties and call NSW DPI on 1800 680 244 if there is any sign of fire ants, as early detection will increase the chances of successful eradication.
Anyone bringing nesting materials into NSW such as mulch, woodchips, compost, sand, gravel, soil, hay and other baled products from the red imported fire ant biosecurity zone in south-east Qld should check requirements.
Source: NSW DPI