Fremantle fire ant alert

Media Release |

The red fire ant, one of the world’s worst invasive species, has just been found in the Fremantle port area.

A single ant nest with multiple entrances was first detected at Fremantle Port on Friday 22 November, the first outbreak of red fire ants for Western Australia.

The Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has destroyed the nest and is now searching nearby areas for further nests.

“It is important that biosecurity authorities act quickly to contain this highly damaging ant before queens make nuptial flights of up to 5 km away to form new nests,” said Andrew Cox, Invasive Species Council CEO.

“Red fire ants are listed is on the IUCN list of 100 of the world’s worst invasive species and are a major threat to Australia’s environment, agriculture and human health and amenity.

“If allowed to establish in Australia they have been modelled to cover 95% of the country and cause over $1 billion in damage and control costs every year.

“The ants form dense highly cooperative nests or super colonies and attack their prey by aggressively swarming and delivering a fiery sting.  Fire ants threaten ground-dwelling insects, reptiles, birds and small mammals, along with livestock such as chickens, lambs and calves. They target electrical appliances and machinery and can undermine infrastructure.

“Their sting leaves a painful burning sensation. A small proportion of people may suffer an anaphylactic reaction and if multiple sings are received, could potential die. There have been more than 85 confirmed deaths from red fire ants in southern USA since the 1930s when they first arrived in that country,” said Mr Cox.

The red fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) is native to South America and has hitched a ride on cargo to invade many countries throughout the world including the USA, Mexico, West Indies and Taiwan, Most recently the ant has invaded India, China and Japan.

Recent outbreaks

In 2017, federal, state and territory governments allocated $411 million over ten years to eradicate red fire ants from a large area of south eastern Queensland between Brisbane and the NSW border. This outbreak was first detected in 2001 and had been subject to eradication efforts totalling $350 million.

Prior to this month, seven red fire ant outbreaks had established in Australia since 2001, six in Queensland and one in NSW. All but the large infestation in south east Queensland had been successfully eradicated.
The National Invasive Ant Biosecurity Plan 2018-2028 was adopted by federal, state and territory governments in 2019 and aims to reduce the threat of invasive ants such as red fire ants. The plan is yet to be fully implemented.

Report suspected red fire ants

Fire ants are red or copper coloured, 2-6mm long, with worker ants being multiple sized.

People in the Perth and Fremantle area who believe they have spotted fire ants, please report the finding to the Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development:

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