Writings: Biosecurity Queensland handing out free fire ant bait to the public, putting the public and the environment at risk and breaching legislation. A case for the Federal Integrity Agency.

In 2001, international fire ant experts said if Biosecurity Queensland neither eradicated fire ants nor contained their spread, the only option left was ‘self-management’ - dumping the costs, risks and responsibility for managing the pest onto the public - forever. As fire ants continue to spread out of control and continually re-infested treated areas, it is clear Biosecurity Queensland has failed and is doing just that – in breach of legislation and putting the public and environment at risk.

Now showing category: Writings


In answer to the frequently asked question ‘Can I treat the (fire ant) nest myself?’ Biosecurity Queensland says:

 ‘Fire ants are category one restricted matter under the Biosecurity Act 2014…. Destruction of fire ant nests should only be administered by a qualified Biosecurity Queensland authorised officer. Treating the nest yourself is not recommended as this will likely be ineffective and result in the colony evacuating the queen and relocating to another area. There is also significant risk to your safety – fire ants are very aggressive and swarm when their nest is disturbed. Each ant can inflict repeated stings that are extremely painful, and in some cases can result in anaphylactic shock.’

The Queensland Pest Management Act 2001 also makes it illegal for the public to treat fire ant nests. The Act aims to protect the public from health risks associate with pest control activities and the adverse results of the ineffective control of pests by establishing a licensing regime to ensure that such activities are carried out by a pest management technician. The public is only permitted to use household pesticides ordinarily available in retail stores where groceries are sold.

Public and environmental risks

The active ingredient in the bait Biosecurity Queensland is providing is pyriproxyfen. The manufacturers give clear safety instructions for its use.  Will the public follow those instructions, or put themselves and the environment at risk?

A user must protect themselves and their home by:

  • wearing tight-fitting safety glasses, elbow length PVC gloves and appropriate clothing,
  • not reusing the container, but thoroughly cleaning it before disposing of it in the garbage.

A user must apply it effectively by:

  • only applying bait when the ants are actively foraging.
  • applying only 2-4g per 10m2, that’s not much, and no more than three times a year. Ants can become bait shy if exposed to it too often and the effectiveness of the bait is lost.
  • not apply it on crops or where poultry feed.

The bait is toxic to aquatic life. To protect the environment, a user must:

  • not contaminate wetlands or other watercourses,
  • not apply it if rain is expected within 24 hours and not irrigate the area for at least 24 hours after application.

As an already sodden south-east Queensland braces for another wet summer, the risk of bait being rained on and wasted, or being washed into waterways is high.

It is time for a Federal Integrity Agency to hold those responsible for this national biosecurity disaster to account.

31st October 2022