Fire ant bait treatment frequently asked questions

As part of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program, Biosecurity Queensland undertakes a baiting program for fire ants on targeted properties. This webpage answers the most common questions about bait used in the eradication program.

What chemicals are used in the fire ant baits?

Fire ant bait is made up of corn grit soaked in a mixture of soybean oil and an insect growth regulator (IGR) – either S-methoprene or pyriproxyfen. S-methoprene is widely used in mosquito control programs, and pyriproxyfen is commonly used in dog and cat flea collars.

How does the bait treatment work?

The bait is thinly distributed across backyards and garden areas as well as parklands and paddocks. Any foraging fire ants in the vicinity will collect the bait and take it back to the nest.

The IGR within the bait leads to the sterilisation of the queen ant, preventing her from producing any more worker ants. After the last adult workers have died of old age (approximately 3-4 months) the queen is effectively starved, and the nest will naturally die out.

How much of each chemical is used?

On an average suburban residential block (approximately 500 m2) about 100 grams of bait will be used in each treatment, which is approximately a half a teaspoon per square metre. As the corn grits consist of 0.5% insecticide, very little active ingredient is distributed.

How safe are these chemicals?

The bait treatment is not harmful to humans or animals, as it is specifically targeted at fire ants. After the baits are distributed, they break down in a matter of days.

The baits are used according to the conditions prescribed on the relevant product labels and permits from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA); an Australian Government regulatory body to ensure safety to humans, animals and the environment.

How is the bait distributed?

There are three main methods of distributing the bait, including:

  • on foot, with a hand held spreader
  • from an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or quad bike
  • by air, using a helicopter.

The method of bait distribution varies depending on the size of each property and accessibility. Officers use hand held spreaders on residential blocks and ATVs are used on larger properties. Large acreage properties are targeted for aerial treatment as helicopters can deliver broad scale treatment over large areas in a time and cost efficient manner.

Who will enter my property?

Only authorised Biosecurity Queensland officers will enter your property or site. They are easily identified by their uniform and identification badges. Their vehicles have signs identifying them as ‘Biosecurity Queensland’ and/or ‘Fire ant program’.

How much does treatment cost?

There is no cost to you when we treat your property.

Do I need to take any precautions after my property has been treated?

For treatment to have the best chance of success, you must not water, mow or disturb your lawn, gardens or paddocks for 48 hours to allow for foraging fire ants to collect the bait. The active ingredient in the bait breaks down in a matter of days.

Restrictions apply to the movement of materials that could carry fire ants such as soil, mulch, animal manures, baled hay or straw, potted plants and turf.

Before moving materials that could carry fire ants, please visit our fire ant movement controls page.

How regularly is this treatment required?

Properties within the designated treatment area are required to be treated two or three times between the months of September to June (weather permitting). Repeated rounds of bait treatment will lead to the eradication of fire ants in your area.

Bait treatment is only conducted during the warmer months when the ants are actively foraging for food.

What if I refuse entry to my property for treatment?

As authorised by the Biosecurity Act 2014, Biosecurity Queensland officers have the power to enter your property to conduct treatment and surveillance activities for fire ants. Entry onto all properties for treatment and surveillance is essential in eradicating fire ants and a resident cannot refuse access. Under the Act a person must not obstruct an authorised officer in the exercise of an authorised person’s powers or penalties will apply.

Aerial treatment

What sort of helicopter is used for aerial treatment?

Fire ant treatments are carried out by a professional helicopter company who has been working with the Program since it started in 2001.

The helicopters used are a Bell 47 or a Long Ranger 206. All pilots working on the Program are true professionals – exercising great care and the utmost respect for your property and livestock.

How far does the bait drift?

Pattern and drift testing as well as independent noise testing is carried out on both helicopters before the commencement of the treatment season to ensure both the product delivery and noise levels comply with our stringent standards.

I rely on rainwater. What is the approach to rainwater tanks?

Once advised of any rainwater tanks or any other hazards/sensitivities, we will work with you and the pilot to ensure the treatment is conducted at an appropriate distance from your tank noting that there is minimal drift associated with granular products For those areas that are not treated by the helicopter, bait will be distributed by staff on foot or riding an ATV.

Do I have to relocate livestock or poulty during treatment?

Free-range poultry will require containment in a non-treatment area during and after treatment for 24 hours. This ensures that any fire ants in the vicinity can gather the bait before the chickens consume it.  

Other animals, such as cattle and horses do not need to be relocated for treatment.

Pilots will continually observe on-ground behaviour of your livestock during treatment and should any issues arise, the helicopter will leave the area. On-ground staff will also be nearby and alert to any issues as well.

If you have any concerns for your livestock during treatment, contact Biosecurity Queensland by calling 12 25 23 to discuss suitable arrangements (such as stabling).

Why is the helicopter flying over my property when it is not being treated?

The helicopter must travel from the loading site to the areas being treated and will use the most direct route which may include flying over your property.

When in transit, the chopper will be at an altitude of at least 500 feet, however when the pilot is dispersing the bait, the pilot will fly at a height of 50 feet (tree top height). This is so the pilot can ensure that the bait is only delivered over the intended area.

Report fire ants

If you see any ants or mounds that you think may be fire ants, use your mobile device to take a photo and report online or call 13 25 23.

Last updated 05 September 2017