The Long Road to Complete Fire Ants Eradication in Forest Lake, Rest of SEQ

Eighteen years after it was first detected, suburbs such as Forest Lake, Richlands, Wacol, Inala, Ellen Grove, Darra, Goodna, Oxley, and Gailes, are still fighting persistent fire ants infestation as these invasive ants continue to spread through South East Queensland.

Dr Pam Swepson — writer, researcher, and a former community engagement manager for the government’s fire ant program — questioned the effectiveness of the government’s efforts to control the infestation and totally eradicate the pest.

“Fire ants are out of control. The infestation is now at least ten times worse than when they were detected in 2001: infesting Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan, Redlands and Gold Coast cities and the Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast, Somerset, Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley regional areas.”

Dr Pam Swepson

A recent fire ants infestation, reported last April 2019 in Logan, saw the Canterbury College rescheduling its sports days upon discovering 20 fire ants nest on the school’s playing field.

Fire ants are infamous for its potent venom. An encounter with fire ants could inflict a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which could potentially lead to death. Fire ants are also known to attack cattle and wildlife as well as damage vegetation.

Their impact on the economy, environment, and public health is such a pressing concern that funding of $411.4 million over 10 years was committed during the Agricultural Ministers’ Forum (AGMIN) to find, contain, and eradicate fire ants.

The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program

The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program is meant to control the infestation in a staged, rolling planned treatment plan from the west and progressively move to the east.

Priority area 1 was the first to receive intensive treatment during 2017-2018. Planned surveillance, suppression treatment, and responsive treatment will continue in priority areas 2, 3, and 4 and will successively undergo intensive treatment   

Fire ants treatment involves distribution of non-toxic bait — corn grit soaked in a mixture of soybean oil and an insect growth regulator — either on foot; from an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or quad bike; or by air, using a helicopter.

Video Credit: BiosecurityQld / YouTube

Crucial to the total eradication after treatment is finding the surviving ants, as these could again multiply. Odour-detection dogs are being used to check areas that have been treated to determine if there are any surviving fire ants.

Locals are also encouraged to notify authorities of suspicious ants in their area. For residential properties, the recommended places to check for fire ants: lawns, footpaths, garden beds, taps, utility pits.  

Dams and irrigation lines; edges of cultivated land; cropland post-harvest; fence lines; and piles of organic matter are the best places to check for fire ants on rural properties.

To report suspected ants in your area, you may use the Biosecurity Queensland online reporting form or call 13 25 23.