Localised fire ant eradication shows promise

The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program’s efforts to eradicate the ‘super pest’ west of Brisbane appear to be paying off.

Local landholders in the Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim and parts of Ipswich City local government area are telling us — “there used to be fire ants, now there are none.”

Foresthill’s Mitch Brimblecombe, Harrisville’s Clinton Hines and Mount Walker’s Geoff Freiberg believe that two years of bait treatment to eradicate fire ants in the western area of the infestation is working.

All three farmers have previously had infestation on their properties and have not seen one suspect ant for the past 9-18 months.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries, Mark Furner said this was very positive news for the program, which today (1 August) launched its largest surveillance campaign yet.

“We’re asking people living on that western edge of the fire ant area to check their properties by 31 August and tell us either way — do you still have fire ants or are they gone,” Mr Furner said.

“This campaign will help us determine whether we’ve got every last fire ant nest in the western eradication area, inform how effective the treatment has been and help us determine our next steps.”

Over the course of the 10-year program resources are focused on eradication strategies, working from the western boundary of the infestation area to the east.

Containment strategies are in place on the other boundaries, and suppression is undertaken within the operational boundary to minimise spread of fire ants until eradication strategies are applied.

“If left untreated, fire ants will ruin our way of life and have serious health and environmental impacts,” Mr Furner said.

“Without the efforts of this national program fire ants could be north to Mackay, south to Sydney and west to Charleville by now.

“This is a problem that can only be beaten through a whole-of-community response, from residents to business and industry, and all levels of government.

“As Queenslanders, we all have an obligation to be vigilant in reporting the presence of fire ants, and in preventing their spread.”

Fire ants are a ‘super pest’ — aggressive, highly-adaptive and well-equipped for survival. Despite this, Australia has succeeded in eradication efforts where other countries have not.

“Since the program began, Australia has eradicated five separate incursions of fire ants, including a population spread over 8,000 hectares at the Port of Brisbane. As the world’s largest eradication of any ant species continues, the eyes of the world are on Australia,” Mr Furner said.

“If eradicating fire ants was easy, we would have done it by now. Program scientists and officers have been learning and adapting their treatment every day to stay ahead of this invasive pest.”

In particular, there is evidence that the treatment is weakening genetic diversity.

“Increased inbreeding within the fire ant population gives us confidence that this serious pest is under pressure,” Mr Furner said.

Residents west of Brisbane are asked to check their properties and report if they are or are not fire ant free by 31 August 2019. Report online at daf.qld.gov.au/fireants or by calling 13 25 23.

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