Writings: Fire ants out of control: more nests found in last year than previous years

‘There have been more fire ant nests found in the last 12 months than in previous years,’ a former fire ant program field assistant has told me. Another former field assistant told me ‘I have observed farms….in the Alberton area …which previously had low infestations, now have fifty plus nests’ and ‘In Purga...one property had fifty nests another property had two hundred nests.’ Yet another former fire ant program field assistant told me ‘The public reports fire ant nests but nothing gets done. Sites that had a couple of nests blow out to sixty nests. ‘ Fire ants are out of control because Biosecurity Queensland wasted $350m of public money and failed to stop the spread of fire ants.

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An essential part of any fire ant program is to stop them spreading before you can kill them.  Fire ants spread most quickly when residents or businesses carelessly or accidently move them around in loads of soil, or mulch or compost or pot-plants or other fire ant friendly materials. Fire ant experts have repeatedly told Biosecurity Queensland to implement a program of ‘aggressive containment’ to stop people spreading fire ants.

Instead, Biosecurity Queensland wasted $350m of public money chasing the last ant to eradicate it, at the expense of stopping people from spreading fire ants. Fire ants now infest an area of at least 411,500ha: more than ten times what it was when fire ants were first found in Brisbane in 2001. Fire ants now infest the Brisbane, Gold Coast, Logan, Ipswich and Redlands City Council Areas and the Lockyer Valley and Scenic Rim Regional Council Areas. And they are spreading further and further.

In recent weeks, fire ants have been found in Bracken Ridge and Brookfield: both suburbs beyond the perimeter of Biosecurity Queensland’s Fire Ant Biosecurity Zones of 1 July 2016. https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/167812/Fire_Ant_Biosecurity_Zone_Map_1_July_2016.pdf

In the Queensland Country Life on 22 September, a spokesperson for the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the home of Biosecurity Queensland, fiercely denied claims of mismanagement of the fire ant eradication program and accused me of ‘blatant lies.’

Former fire ant program field assistants tell me ‘Management continues to lie about the program. Keep your work against (the) fire ants (program) going. Everything that you have been saying is true.’