Two fire ant incursions eradicated from Brisbane transport hubs

The Port of Brisbane and the Brisbane Airport have officially been declared free of the fire ant infestations which were detected in 2016 and 2015 respectively.

The declarations were made by the National Biosecurity Management Consultative Committee — part of the national biosecurity arrangements — after no ants were found during two rounds of surveillance, one year apart, following the completion of treatment.

The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program Steering Committee Chair, Dr Wendy Craik, said the clearances were further evidence that the program knows how to win the war against the fire ant.

“The program is heavily science-based with continuous research and analysis underway on genetics, foraging behaviour, as well as population spread.

“Science has been especially important in driving forward new and more effective bait and toxicant options to deliver eradication.

“The Port of Brisbane and Brisbane Airport declarations are a demonstration that our current strategy to target discrete areas for eradication can work,” said Dr Craik.

“These latest declarations bring the total number of genetically-distinct fire ant incursions in Queensland that the program has cleared to five, and we’re working hard to eradicate the pest from other parts of South East Queensland.

“It is the same strategy we are using for the sixth and largest remaining infestation in South East Queensland, with eradication currently underway in the western-most sector, moving through the three remaining areas over the next eight years.

“Our transport hubs are particularly vulnerable to fire ant incursions as they’re the international gateways to material coming into Queensland and Australia.

“As well as the Port of Brisbane and Brisbane Airport, there have been two infestations at the Port of Gladstone, which we’ve eradicated. We also helped eradicate the pest at Port Botany in Sydney.

“An earlier infestation at the Port of Brisbane, detected in 2001, was traced to the southern United States.

“Around 8300 hectares were affected and successfully cleared by the program — the largest ever recorded eradication of any ant species. The last nest was found in February 2005 and the site was declared eradicated in 2012.”

“The 2016 Port of Brisbane incursion was shown to have originated from Argentina and the Brisbane Airport infestation from the United States,” she said.

“Genetic analysis conducted by the program’s science team revealed that both of these detections were new incursions and not related to existing or previous populations in Australia.

Biosecurity zones and associated movement controls will remain in place due to the current unrelated infestation in South East Queensland.

In 2016, the program was placed under scrutiny, with a fifth independent review into the effectiveness of the program since 2001. As in the previous four reviews, the recommendations supported the continuation of the eradication program but with long term funding to support a strategy over ten years.

This meant the program could ramp up efforts to fully eradicate the pest, while continuing the aggressive containment that has been critical to preventing the rampant spread seen in other countries around the world.

The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program is a nationally cost-shared eradication program delivered by Biosecurity Queensland on behalf of the Australian Government and all state and territory governments.

To find out more about the program or to report fire ants, visit daf.qld.gov.au/fireants or call 13 25 23.

Ends.

Media Contact: Yvette Eynon
Mobile: 0459 855 046