Location of fire ants in Queensland
Genetic analysis shows there have been 6 different incursions of fire ants into Australia; 5 recorded in Queensland and 1 in Port Botany, New South Wales.
In Queensland, the first two incursions were discovered in 2001, one in the south western suburbs of Brisbane and the other at the Port of Brisbane. The third and fourth incursions were found in Yarwun, Central Queensland in 2006 and 2013. The fifth and most recent incursion was found at Brisbane Airport in 2015.
The Port Botany incursion was discovered in 2014 with the NSW Department of Primary Industries leading the eradication response. Biosecurity Queensland provided assistance in the initial response and provides ongoing scientific and operational support when required.
Both the Port of Brisbane and 2006 Yarwun incursions have been successfully eradicated and the 2013 Yarwun incursion is due to be declared eradicated in July 2016.
Spread from the initial Brisbane infestation has led to infestations around the greater Brisbane area, Ipswich, Logan and Redlands. Isolated infestations have also been found in Scenic Rim, Gold Coast and Lockyer Valley.
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Fire ants pose a serious social, economic and environmental threat. They are a category 1 restricted pest under the Biosecurity Act 2014, so you must report suspected sightings of fire ants on your property to Biosecurity Queensland or face heavy fines.
How fire ants spread
Fire ants spread naturally through mating flights and budding. A mated female (queen) can fly up to 2km, while a newly mated queen finds a suitable nesting site, sheds her wings and starts a new colony.
Humans can spread fire ants via:
- shipments of infested nursery stock, soil or other fire ant carriers
- materials and containers stored in fire ant biosecurity zones
- machinery that has been used to move soil.
To stop the spread of fire ants, the Queensland Government has implemented movement controls in certain parts of Queensland (fire ant biosecurity zones).
Where fire ants came from
Fire ants are from South America and are native to the floodplains of the Paraguay River in Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina. They entered the southern United States in the 1930s, probably in soil used as ship ballast, and have been spreading across the US ever since.
Fire ants would have been unknowingly imported into Brisbane, possibly up to 20 years ago. The pathway of entry into Brisbane is unknown, but was possibly in a shipping container from the US. They were first detected in the Brisbane area in February 2001.
- If you see fire ants, you must notify Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or complete the online fire ant notification form.
- Find out about your legal obligations if you are moving fire ant carriers in fire ant biosecurity zones.
- Discover information on America's fire ant situation and the biological controls being trialled there from the United States Department of Agriculture.
- Read about the California Fire Ant Eradication Program run by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
- Learn more about the Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Plan, other fire ant information including education and research materials from Texas A&M University.
- Read the Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk project's report on red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) and its potential environmental impacts in Hawaii.