Conducting visual inspections for fire ants

As part of your general biosecurity obligation under the Biosecurity Act 2014, if you are moving or storing fire ant carriers within fire ant biosecurity zones, you should regularly inspect these materials and report any ants that you think could be fire ants to Biosecurity Queensland.

To successfully check for fire ants, you should be suitably trained so you know what to look for. Biosecurity Queensland conducts free training sessions to assist with the identification of fire ants and provides information on movement control requirements.

What to look for

  • Small ants (2–6mm) that vary in size within the one nest and are copper brown in colour with a darker abdomen.
  • Ants that exhibit aggressive behaviour when disturbed.
  • Nests that are mounds of loose soil with no obvious entry or exit holes.

Watch the fire ant identification video to know what to look for.

Materials most likely to spread fire ants

Materials that can spread fire ants are known as fire ant carriers. There are restrictions on the movement of these materials within fire ant biosecurity zones. Fire ant carriers include:

  • soil (e.g. fill, clay, scrapings, and any material removed from the ground at a site where earthworks are being carried out)
  • mulch
  • animal manures
  • baled hay or straw
  • potted plants
  • turf
  • mining or quarry products
  • composted materials.

Where to look for fire ants

For a commercial or development site, you should concentrate your inspections around areas including:

  • anywhere fire ant carriers are stored
  • machinery used with fire ant carriers and where that machinery is stored
  • the perimeter of the site area
  • anywhere waste material is stored
  • areas around buildings, gardens and lawns.

For a residential property the top 5 spots to check are:

  • lawns
  • footpaths
  • garden beds
  • taps
  • electrical or water meter pits.

For rural properties the top 5 spots to check are:

  • dams and irrigation lines
  • edges of cultivated land
  • crop land post-harvest
  • fence lines
  • piles of organic matter.

Conducting fire ant surveillance

Follow these steps when conducting fire ant surveillance.

  • Ensure you wear appropriate personal protective equipment such as boots and gloves.
  • Before moving a fire ant carrier or excavating at an earthworks site, examine the fire ant carrier or site for excavation, and adjacent areas on the site, for signs of fire ant nests.
  • If you find a suspect ant or nest, use a long rod or stick and gently prod the nest, and inspect any ants present. Take care not to overly disturb the nest.
  • Call Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 if you have found ants you suspect are fire ants.
  • If you find fire ants on your commercial site, Biosecurity Queensland will work with you to ensure that your business activities can continue without the risk of further spread of fire ants.

Keeping a record

It is good business practice to keep a record of your visual surveillance activities. This can be recorded in a way that suits your business. The record should include the date, time, place and name of the person who conducted the visual surveillance.

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