Australia draws up battle plans for Brisbane’s fire ant menace

Media Release |
Pustules from fire ant stings. Photo: Murray S. Blum, The University of Georgia

International and national experts will this week draw up battle plans for dealing with dangerous and destructive ants that have invaded Australia and now threaten human lives, our agricultural systems and iconic areas such as Queensland’s Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

Experts from across Australia and overseas will gather in Brisbane early this week to formulate the first ever national plan for invasive ants such as the red imported fire ant, which in the US has caused the deaths of at least 80 people.

“This is the largest gathering ever of experts from across the nation and overseas coming together to tackle dangerous invasive ants in Australia,” Andrew Cox from the Invasive Species Council said.

“Red fire ants, yellow crazy ants and browsing ants have all breached Australia’s border securities in recent years. Each has the potential to cause major harm to our environment, agriculture and to change our way of life.”

Attending the meeting will be one of the world’s experts on red imported fire ants, Dr David Oi from the US Department of Agriculture, who has warned Australia that it needs to take notice of the serious problems fire ants have created in the United States.

“I am pleased to come and share the American experience of red imported fire ants with an Australian audience at this important workshop,” he said.

The red imported fire ant has venom that causes blistering, anaphylaxis, hospitalisation and even death in human beings. Currently there is only one fire ant incursion in Australia, in south-east Queensland, but if not eradicated they could occupy most of the continent.

“This important meeting will address a shortfall in Australia’s biosecurity framework by developing a national plan for improved detection, surveillance and research,” Mr Cox said.

“This meeting is timely. There is an important decision facing commonwealth, state and territory agriculture ministers in February when they must decide whether to continue with fire ant eradication in south-east Queensland.”

The meeting will be held on November 8 and 9. It is being convened by the Plant Biosecurity CRC on behalf of the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

Media contact

  • Reece Pianta, 0422 935 665.

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