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 Australia fire ant threat infographic
Graphic shows Australian fire ant infestations since 2001.


Bid to stop venomous fire ants

By Duncan Mil

January 17, 2024 - Fire ants, whose sting can kill people, pets and livestock, are forming living rafts after being caught in Queensland floodwaters, raising the threat of incursions into northern New South Wales.

Fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) first turned up in Australia in 2001 at the northern port of Brisbane.

It’s believed they entered the country on a cargo ship from a South American country, possibly Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay or Argentina, where the ants are native.

Fire ants were accidentally introduced into Alabama in the U.S. in the 1930s and spread across much of the country. They cost the U.S. agriculture industry US$7 billion a year and have killed more than 80 people.

Nigel Andrew, professor of entomology at Southern Cross University, says large fire ant colonies can have up to 400,000 workers, which feed on insects, animals and plants and can destroy native habitats.

The only way to eliminate fire ants is to kill the queen ant or render her infertile with chemicals.

PUBLISHED: 17/01/2024; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Ben Raines/Press-Register