Pests & Diseases

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Fire Ants

Fire Ant Information 

The Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta) has the potential to become a major social and agricultural pest resulting in the loss of millions of dollars every year. This pest has been discovered in the South Western suburbs of Brisbane in the past 18 months and a major eradication program is now under way in Queensland. In conjunction with the Commonwealth government, South Australian agencies will be conducting surveys of high risk premises to ensure that Fire Ants are not allowed to establish in South Australia.

Identifying Fire Ants

 
  • 2 – 6 millimetres long (different sizes are often present in the same nest).
  • red – brown in colour.
  • very aggressive when disturbed.
  • can inflict a painful sting (usually results in the formation of blisters).
  • able to sting repeatedly.

 

Fire Ant Worker (Courtesy Peter Green)

 

Identifying Fire Ant Mounds

 
  • mounds can be up to 40cm high.
  • generally domed.
  • absence of entry and exit holes.
  • will nest under logs etc so mound not always present.
 

 

Fire Ant mound (Courtesy Texas A&M University)

 

Fire Ants on pen (Courtesy Texas A&M University)

 

Where to look for Fire Ant activity

 
  • Pot plants.
  • Landscaping supplies (mulch and soil heaps).
  • Timber in contact with the ground.
  • Overgrown areas.
  • Near permanent water sources.
  • Machinery and equipment. 
  • Any materials that have come from a Fire Ant infested area.

 

Ideal site for Fire Ants (Courtesy Texas A&M University)

 

How to collect samples if you suspect Fire Ants 

  • Do not disturb the nest as the ants will aggressively defend it.
  • Collect foraging ants away from the nest.
  • Kill ants with either aerosol insecticide or boiling water.
  • Put ants into a sealable container (screw top vials).
  • Send to SARDI entomology for identification.
  • Do not send live specimens.  

Contact for Fire Ants : reporting suspect ants and ant identification

Plant Health Organisation(PHO)(SA only) : 1300 666 010

For futher information see Queensland Department of Primary Industries 

South Australian Fire Ant Surveillance and Awareness Program. 2002 - 2005

(The South Australian Component of the national Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program (finished 2005)). 

The program aims to monitor high-risk sites for RIFA (Red Imported Fire Ant) incursions and to raise awareness of RIFA so that any future incursions can be reported quickly.

While there are no known infestations of Fire Ants in South Australia, over the next 12 months staff from PIRSA and AQIS will be conducting surveys of high-risk areas to determine if this ant has been introduced.

It is thought the Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta) was introduced into Australia through the Brisbane area some years ago.

Fire Ants were detected in the South Western suburbs of Brisbane, and while it is not known how the ants arrived in Queensland it is thought that they may have been there for as long as five years. RIFA is now well established in the Brisbane area but it is believed there is a good possibility of eradicating this pest.

The surveillance program is targeting sites that receive imports into South Australia from Queensland, which may act as a vehicle of transportation of this pest.

In summary, the program (Finished in South Australia)aims to :

  • Identify sites that are at risk of importing RIFA

  • monitor the above sites and education of staff.

  • spread awareness of the potential impact of RIFA. 

The problem with Fire Ants. 

Potentially, Fire Ants could become the greatest ecological problem to enter Australia since the rabbit.

  • The US experience has shown that Fire Ants are a serious environmental, agricultural, social and medical pest.
  • Fire Ants inflict a painful sting.
  • In severe cases their stings can cause anaphylactic shock, an allergic reaction humans can have to stings from bees and wasps.
  • If prevention of their incursion is not successful, they will seriously impact on our lifestyle.
  • Impact on agriculture can range from
    • damage to seeds, seedlings and fruit.
    • issues concerning worker safety.
    • deaths of newborn and the young livestock.
    • blindness in animals.

There is also the potential for impacts to the nursery and landscape industries due to the movement of high-risk materials such as pot plants, soil, mulch and other materials.

Stings 

If allergic to stings, immediately seek medical advice.

Fire Ants inflict a fiery sting that causes a small blister containing pus. These blisters can become very itchy and if broken can become infected. On rare occasions stings can cause severe acute allergic reaction. 

Finding Fire Ants 

Important. Avoid contact with the ants.

  • Do not disturb the nest as ants will aggressively defend the nest.
  • Collect foraging ants away from the nest.
  • Kill ants with aerosol insecticide.
  • Place dead ants into a sealable container (screw top vial), after scooping up dead ants with disposable plastic spoon or similar.
  • Do not send live specimens.
  • For reporting suspect ants call State Quarantine Service 1300 666 010.
  • For futher infomation see Queensland Department of Primary Industries 

Information in this paper courtesy of Queensland Government, Department of Primary Industries.

Project Collaborators: Queensland Government, Department of Primary Industries 

Links with other Fire Ant web pages

External Links 

More information

You can download a brochure with information about fire ants (PDF), including what to do if you are stung by a fire ant.