Fire ant rumours extinguished

FIRE ants remain on the other side of the border amid rumours they were marching south.

Biosecurity Queensland Control Centre director Neil O'Brien said through ongoing surveillance and treatment fire ants remain contained to South East Queensland.

"Fire ants have never been found in New South Wales," he said.

"Fire ants pose a major threat to the environment, economy and our way of life."

Physically they cause painful stings, secondary infections and human deaths from anaphylactic shock.

Mr O'Brien said there had been more than 80 deaths in the United States.

Environmental impacts of the ants include damage to livestock, crops, tourism, gardens, agriculture and electrical equipment.

He further highlighted the harm it can cause to wildlife and plants.

"Potentially affecting whole ecosystems," he said.

"Sadly enough the pests would reduce our outdoor activities and posed an increased risk of harm to pets."

In the last year the most southerly detection of fire ants was at Logan Village, about 80km from the border.

Mr O'Brien said the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program conducts a comprehensive containment, delineation with remote sensing surveillance and eradication strategy to protect Australia from the potential impacts of fire ants.

Some of the tools and techniques employed by the program included remote sensing technology using thermal, multi-spectral and near infra red cameras mounted to a helicopter that can identify fire ant mounds from 150 metres in the air.

Surveillance and treatment to find and kill fire ants using air and ground crews, all terrain vehicles and odour detection dogs.

Scientific research including genetic testing to identify colonies.

The NSW and Queensland governments are working to stop the spread and urge the public to take precautions, especially when moving planting material from infected areas.

Human-assisted spread is usually due to shipments of infested nursery stock, soil, or other high-risk materials.

The ants also spread naturally through mating flights and budding, a mated female (queen) can fly up to 2 km.

The Queensland Government is uncertain of how the South American insects made their way to our shores but suggest they were transported in a shipping container from the United States.

They were first detected in the Brisbane area in February 2001 and remain an on-going issue.

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