Media: Fire ant program spokesperson tell MyNewsFeedLogan 'the program of suppression had worked to an extent.' Fire ant program expert Pam Swepson says 'chase after the last ant to kill it comes at the expense of tight containment.'

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My News Feed, Logan. Max Mayer. February 24, 2022.

Fire ants still a problem in Logan.

Logan’s fire ant problem may be spreading, but the prevention agency still hopes to contain the overall threat posed by the insects in South-East Queensland.

 A spokesperson from the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program Queensland says that the program of suppression had worked to a certain extent.

‘If left uncontrolled, fire ants would spread quickly across Australia. Had the program not been in place it is estimated fire ants would have spread as far north as Bowen, west to Longreach and south to Canberra by now.’

‘Our current focus is on protecting already treated areas from re-infestation and treating any remaining fire ants in clearance areas to stop them from spreading.’

‘This area measure 352,660 hectares – this is made up of multiple treatments in some areas. We have treated just over 187,000ha so far.’

They say they have been using two types of bait – fast acting and slow acting.

‘We do this by containing, suppressing and eradicating fire ants using a staged rolling treatment strategy. Eradicating fire ants is not easy, but the results of intensive eradication treatment in the west of the infestation looks promising.’

‘The City of Logan is currently in the suppression phase of the plan. This means we ask residents in the area to play their part by looking for, reporting and treating fire ants.  We also ask everyone to take steps to prevent the spread of fire ants.’

‘Fire ants can have devastating consequences on our environment and outdoor way of life. They also pose a serious threat to humans. At best, their stings can be painful; at worst, they can trigger a toxic, sometimes life-threatening allergic reaction.’

Fire ant expert Pam Swepson says the current strategy isn’t working. ‘The program has spent about $700 million and is 21 years old. There is not a scrap of scientific evidence that it was possible to eradicate a well-entrenched population. It was a political decision at the time to mount an eradication program because an eradication program attracts Commonwealth funding whereas a containment program does not. The American experts recommended that we determine the extent of the spread and that we bait it to suppress it.

Swepson believes that more of an effort should be made to regulate the spread of soil from infested areas to non-infested areas.

‘The biggest cause of spread is the movement of soil, mulch and compost in trucks from infested areas into developing areas.

‘The whole effort of chasing the last ant to kill it has come at the expense of tight containment strategies.

‘In 2001, I was interviewing a couple in Forest Lake who had had a fire ant problem. Their kids had put the hose on the heap of dirt and next minute they were all over them. If the parents hadn’t been there, their kids would have gone to hospital.’

‘If the ordinary person doesn’t know what the nests look like, they are likely to stumble on a nest and get stung. ‘If you stumble on a nest, the ants will swarm you, and on a signal will sting you repeatedly with their mandibles. That results in a pustule which makes you feel like you are being burned.’