Soil management in fire ant biosecurity zones

The movement of soil is one of the highest risks for spreading fire ants.

Under the Biosecurity Act 2014 everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take all reasonable steps to ensure they do not spread fire ants.

The Biosecurity Regulation 2016 prescribes procedures that you must follow when moving soil from a fire ant biosecurity zone.

There are 3 fire ant biosecurity zones in Queensland. Refer to the fire ant biosecurity zone maps to see the boundaries of these zones.

There are different levels of controls for the movement of soil, which are outlined in the table below.

Fire ant carrier Biosecurity zone 1 Biosecurity zone 2 Biosecurity zone 3

Soil (includes fill, clay, scrapings, and any material removed from the ground at a site where earthworks are being carried out)

To move soil from a property within biosecurity zone 1, you must have a biosecurity instrument permit, unless:

  • the material remains within zone 1*
  • the material is moved to a waste facility within zone 1 or zone 2

To move soil from a property within biosecurity zone 2, you must have a biosecurity instrument permit, unless:

  • the material remains within zone 2 or is moved to zone 1*
  • the material is moved to a waste facility within zone 1 or 2

To move soil from a property within biosecurity zone 3, you must have a biosecurity instrument permit, unless:

  • the material remains within zone 3*
  • the material is moved to a waste facility within zone 3

*For soil movement within the biosecurity zones you must meet the GBO.

Apply for a biosecurity instrument permit from a Biosecurity Queensland inspector or call 13 25 23.

Management techniques

There are measures and management techniques available to enable you to fulfil your GBO before moving soil within a biosecurity zone. These measures could include:

  • checking for ants before moving the soil
  • removing the top 1 metre of soil immediately prior to the movement
  • disturbing the soil through a mechanical process.

Checking for fire ants before moving the soil

To be able to successfully check for fire ants a person must be suitably trained, so they know what they are looking for. Biosecurity Queensland provides free fire ant training sessions to assist with the identification of fire ants.

Common areas to look include:

  • the perimeter of the site
  • garden and lawn areas
  • waste material storage areas
  • storage areas for equipment used for dealing with fire ant carriers
  • around buildings
  • in and around unused equipment.

Before excavating or disturbing the ground, you should conduct a thorough visual check for any signs of fire ants and report any suspect ants to Biosecurity Queensland within 24 hours.

You can report fire ants online or by calling Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Removing the top one metre of soil

A fire ant colony in soil is usually found within the top 1 metre of soil. By removing this top metre of soil from ground level, the soil below can be accessed and safely moved off-site.

You cannot move the top layer of soil off-site without a biosecurity instrument permit. Do not mix this top layer with the soil that is being moved.

However, if the soil is stockpiled there is a high risk of infestation by fire ants and there is no way to address this risk without obtaining a biosecurity instrument permit.

For further information contact a Biosecurity Queensland inspector on 13 25 23.

Disturbing the soil

Fire ants will move away from sites if they are disturbed. Putting soil through a mechanical disturbance process such as grinding, crushing or screening will disturb a fire ant colony and make the soil safe to move.

Also consider...