A joint government initiative is offering free fire ant bait to all Greater Springfield residents over the summer to help prevent their spread.
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner said households in eligible suburbs who register by February would receive a free round of bait.
“The bait is safe for people and pets, and both homeowners and renters can register,” Mr Furner said.
The offering comes courtesy of the National Fire Ant Eradication Program (NFAEP).
The NFAEP is a long-term collaborative project delivered by Biosecurity Queensland – part of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries – with the ongoing support of all three levels of Australian government.
An additional round of bait was also offered to those who registered prior to November 20.
The government considers fire ants to be a “super pest” that may surpass the severity of Australia’s current worst invasive species, such as rabbits, cane toads, and feral cats.
Any suspected ants or nests should immediately be reported via the Department website (ants.daf.qld.gov.au) or by calling 13 25 23.
Environment and Sustainability Committee Chairperson Councillor Russell Milligan said fire ants pose a huge threat to the economy, environment, and outdoor lifestyle of all residents, including sporting events, barbecues, and picnics.
“They inflict a painful, fiery sting, which in rare cases can cause a severe allergic reaction,” Cr Milligan said.
“Ipswich is in a Biosecurity zone with many known outbreak areas, but with the recent flooding it is likely fire ants have used the floodwater to ‘raft’ and colonise new areas.”
An imported pest, fire ants are comparatively small (at 2 to 6 millimetres), and highly mobile and adaptive to Australian ecosystems, according to Biosecurity Queensland expertise.
They are copper (reddish) brown in colour, with a darker abdomen, their sizes tend to vary within each nest, and they act aggressively, swarming when disturbed.
In fact, a fire ant queen can fly up to 5km to start a new nest, and even raft on water following floods and wet weather events.
“I urge everyone to check their yards and properties now for fire ants, and report any sightings,” Cr Milligan added.
When looking for fire ants, residents are strongly cautioned to wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as boots and gloves.
To help with identification, residents should carefully examine the behaviour of the ants by cautiously uncovering a suspected nest site and very gently poking it with a long stick.
The NFAEP website provides advice, photographs, and training videos to aid residents – children should not physically participate in the identification process.
Division 1 Councillor Sheila Ireland explained that while nests often appear as “dome-shaped mounds” up to 40 centimetres high, they may also be quite flat, appearing “like a small patch of disturbed soil.”
“The nests become more visible after rain because the fire ants build their nests higher in the wet,” she added.
Visit fireants.org.au or call 13 25 23 for more information or to report a suspected sighting.