Fire ant identification

If you suspect fire ants

Contact us to report fire ants or complete the online form.

If you have been stung, refer to the first aid advice below and seek medical attention if allergic to insect stings.

Early detection is essential to prevent the spread of fire ants.

  • Log raised to show internal structure of fire ant nest
    Nests can be found under and around material, such as logs and rocks. When this log is moved, the internal honeycomb structure of the nest is revealed

General information

First detected in the Brisbane area in February 2001, these South American ants pose a serious social, economic and environmental threat. Fire ants are a category 1 restricted pest under the Biosecurity Act 2014 and landholders must report suspected sightings of fire ants on their property to Biosecurity Queensland.

Watch our fire ant identification video to learn more about fire ants, what they look like and where you are most likely to find them. You can also view more images of fire ants.

Overview

Species name      

Solenopsis invicta

Description      

Nests:        

  • No obvious entry or exit holes          
  • Come in various shapes and sizes          
  • Can be mounds or just some loose soil          
  • Can be found under and around logs, rocks and garden material          

Behaviour:        

  • Aggressive, particularly near the nest          
  • Can inflict a painful sting          

Ants:        

  • Small 2-6 mm          
  • Variety of sizes within each nest          
  • Head and body are coppery-brown, abdomen is darker          
Location of nests      

Fire ant mounds are not always easily identifiable. They can be up to 40cm high, but may also be flat and look like a small patch of disturbed soil. They are usually found in open areas such as lawns, pastures, along roadsides and unused cropland.        

Nests are also found next to or under other objects on the ground, such as timber, logs, rocks, pavers or bricks.        

Distribution in Australia      

Fire ants have been found in South East Queensland (SEQ), around Brisbane, Logan, Ipswich, Redland and Scenic Rim. Isolated infestations have been found in SEQ north of the Gold Coast, in the Lockyer Valley and in Yarwun, Central Queensland. View a map of the current fire ant biosecurity zones.        

First aid advice      

Stings are painful, and the burning or itching sensation can last up to an hour. Victims of multiple stings may feel as if their body is on fire.        

After several hours small pustules may form at sting sites. These may become itchy and can take up to 10 days to heal. There is a risk of secondary infection if the pustules break.        

If stung by fire ants:        

  • Apply a cold compress to relieve the swelling and pain.          
  • Gently wash the affected area with soap and water and leave the blister intact.          
  • Seek medical attention if you are allergic to insect stings or experience symptoms of allergy.          

In extremely rare cases fire ant stings can cause a severe and sometimes fatal allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).        

Seek medical attention if showing any sign of adverse reaction to stings.

What to do if you think you see a fire ant      
  • In Queensland, call Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or complete the online report form. Under Queensland legislation, fire ants are a category 1 restricted pest and must be reported to Biosecurity Queensland.        
  • In New South Wales, call the Department of Primary Industries on 1800 084 881.          
  • In Victoria, call the Department of Primary Industries on 13 61 86.          

Further information

Last updated 01 July 2016