Hay management and transport in fire ant biosecurity zones

Baled hay, straw or sugarcane originating from within fire ant biosecurity zones is considered high risk for the spread of fire ants.

Bales of hay, including lucerne and straw, and sugarcane provide both a food supply, shelter and micro-climate that is highly attractive to fire ants.

The Biosecurity Regulation 2016 prescribes outlines what management techniques methods you must follow when producing, storing and moving hay or straw from a property within a fire ant biosecurity zone.

Moving baled materials in, across or outside fire ant biosecurity zones

You may move baled materials in, across or outside the fire ant biosecurity zones if you:

  • transport material from zone 1 directly to a nearby waste facility in zone 1 or 2
  • or
  • transport material from zone 2 to a waste facility in zone 2 only
  • or
  • move the material within 24 hours of it arriving at the original place
  • or
  • follow the management methods outlined below.

You can also use our fire ant advice tool to find out what requirements apply to you.

If you are unable to comply with these conditions, then you must request a biosecurity instrument permit from an inspector.

Management methods

The timing of hay production and baling, and appropriate storage of baled hay or straw, will reduce the risk of infestation by fire ants.

Raking and baling

The final 2 rakings must be conducted within 24 hours of each other, and cut material must be baled within 24 hours of the last raking. Baled materials must be moved off the property within 24 hours of baling or it must be stored appropriately.

Storing hay, straw or sugarcane

Storing mulch appropriately will reduce the risk of infestation by fire ants.

If materials are to remain on the property for more than 24 hours, you must use the following storage options:

  • off-ground and covered with an effective barrier that prevents ants, including flying mated queens, from penetrating the bale
  • or
  • on-ground and covered on a fire ant resistant surface such as:
    • concrete or bitumen (with no cracks)
    • a barrier that cannot be penetrated by fire ants (e.g. 200 micron unperforated continuous plastic sheeting)
    • compacted ground (other than sand) that has been treated with an appropriate chemical product before materials are stored.

Pallets are not considered an adequate form of off-ground storage as the material can easily fall through gaps and form an untreated 'bridge', potentially allowing fire ants to infest the material. Off-ground storage must be able to prevent infestation.

Treatment of hay, straw and sugarcane

Chemical treatment must be applied around the perimeter of the on-ground storage area. This should be done by applying a 30cm-wide strip of an insecticide containing 80g/L bifenthrin (check the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) permit to ensure you use the correct amount and concentration)*.

For an insecticide registered as a horizontal or perimeter barrier for fire ants, refer to APVMA permit PER14317 (expires 29 February 2024).

Insecticides must be used in accordance with the conditions of the APVMA permit, the safety data sheet (SDS) and in conjunction with the product's label.

*This is not appropriate for baled hay or straw destined for animal consumption. Refer to the appropriate chemical product information below.

Receiving baled materials

Fire ants can travel undetected in baled materials. Protect yourself from receiving fire ant infested materials by asking the producer, supplier, or delivery driver if the material originate from within a fire ant biosecurity zone. If so, you should ask the following questions:

  • Do you know how the material was produced?
  • Have the bales been left in a paddock for more than 24 hours?
  • How have the bales been stored?
  • Have the bales been stored or treated in accordance with the Biosecurity Regulation 2016?

Keeping a record

Keep a written record of the steps you have taken to ensure the materials are stored correctly, including chemical treatment records and/or disturbance activities. Keep these records for a minimum of 2 years.

For further information, contact a program inspector on 13 25 23.

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