Writings: Hundreds of fire ant nests. Public losing confidence in Biosecurity Queensland

A vigilant public in south east Queensland is reporting hundreds of fire ant nests and Biosecurity Queensland is taking months to respond. The public is giving up on Biosecurity Queensland and taking matter into their own hands: risking their own safety and likely making the infestation worse. 2nd September 2017

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The support of the community is crucial to the fire ant program. And the community have done their bit: 70% of new detection are made by the public. In December 2016, Biosecurity Queensland recorded another 332 properties infested with fire ants. In April 2017 that was up to 1560. In May 2017, that was up to 1617 properties and in June 2017, there were another 2044 properties infested with fire ants.

Biosecurity Queensland is so swamped with reports from the public that it can take three of four months for a team to arrive on sites to treat the nests. In the meantime, the fire ants spread and properties in south-east Queensland now have hundreds of fire ant nests.

In July 2016, a property at Peak Crossing in the Scenic Rim area had 400 nests, another property at Wacol in the Brisbane area had 65 nest, a property at Yatala in the Gold Coast area had 65 nests and a property at Brookwater, also in the Ipswich area, had over 120 nests.

In September 2016, a property at Willowbank in the Ipswich area had 67 nests, one at Greenbank in the Logan area had over 300 nests and a property at Purga, also in the Ipswich area, had over 100 nests.

In May 2017, a property at Pimpama on the Gold Coast had 200 nests, a property at Forest Hill in the Lockyer Valley had over 300 nests and a property at Laidley Creek West, also in the Lockyer Valley, had over 100 nests.

In June 2017, a property at Blacksoil in the Ipswich area had over 170 nests, a property at Mount Walker in the Scenic Rim area had over 200 nests, a property at Jimboomba in the Logan area had 120 nests, a property had Raceview in the Ipswich area had over 50 nests and one at Kingsholm on the Gold Coast had over 200 nests.

Biosecurity Queensland’s response to the fire ant infestation is slow and ineffective. A computer model in 2008 showed that fire ants were spreading faster than Biosecurity Queensland could find them. They were continually breaching containment lines, and they still are. In 2009, an independent scientific review said Biosecurity Queensland’s fire ant treatment program was ‘questionable’ because fire ants continued to re-infest properties that have been treated. That has not changed either. Suburbs that become infested tend to stay on Biosecurity Queensland Fire Ant Zone map.

The public is losing confidence in Biosecurity Queensland’s fire ant program. They get annoyed that field staff are not allowed to tell them if the suspicious nest they reported is a fire ant nest or not. They get annoyed when field staff working on nearby properties are not allowed to also inspect their property for fire ants. They get annoyed take it takes Biosecurity Queensland three to four months to send out a team to treat fire ant nests on their property.

Property owners are now taking matters into their own hands. Getting tired of waiting for a Biosecurity Queensland team to show up, property owners are now trying to destroy fire ant nests themselves. The dangers are that they will get stung and accidentally cause the fire ant nests to split and spread.

Some companies who find fire ant nests on their properties are simply not calling Biosecurity Queensland back to treat them because Biosecurity Queensland’s slow response slows down their business activities. And mowing companies are mowing over nests they know are fire ant nests rather than wait for Biosecurity Queensland to treat them. Mowing won’t kill fire ant nests them. They will either re-establish or spread further.

It is important that the public continues to report suspicious ant nests that look more like a mound of soil than an ant nest because they have no obvious entry hole. But if a nest is disturbed, dozens of coppery-brown ants, of various sizes, will swarm whatever disturbed them and inflict painful stings.

But the public is on its own in the fight against fire ants while Biosecurity Queensland runs the fire ant program. Property owners might demand their State and Federal members of Parliament make sure the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program is run by a competent agency.