18 December 2023
Northern New South Wales (NSW) residents are being urged to play an active role in protecting their community against fire ants, by providing consent to allow treatment on their properties.
Fire ant nests were found on a vacant block in South Murwillumbah in November 2023 and the National Fire Ant Eradication Program and NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) have destroyed the nests and need to ensure there are no more.
A Biosecurity (Fire Ant) Emergency Order (3) has since been issued, which places a Fire Ant Movement Control Area across a 5 km zone from the infested site.
Ashley Bacon, Executive Program Director for the National Fire Ant Eradication Program, said 100% of properties in the target area need to be treated, whether fire ants are visible or not.
“Treatment will be conducted by our experienced staff members and is essential to protecting residents and businesses in the local community from the harmful impacts of this invasive pest.
“We need everyone to work with us and provide consent for our teams to come onto properties and complete vital eradication activities in a systematic and timely manner.”
People can authorise fire ant teams to enter the outdoor areas of their property by signing a consent form when teams doorknock in the area. Documentation and follow-up instructions will be left in mailboxes for those who are not home when teams come through.
Mr Bacon said fire ants are a dangerous pest that must be stopped.
“Fire ants do not discriminate—this area provides an ideal habitat for them to thrive in and eradication treatment is our best and only option to eliminate them for good.”
Treatment is safe for people and animals and is approved by the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). It contains the same active ingredients commonly found in household and agricultural pest control products, but at a much lower concentration.
Fire ant treatment is made up of small pieces of corn grit soaked in soybean oil and a low concentration of insect growth regulator. It is collected by foraging fire ants and prevents the queen from reproducing workers—if she cannot replenish her workforce, the colony will starve and naturally die out.
If you are a certified organic or bio-dynamic producer, our team will work with you to discuss treatment options and schedule treatment dates that best suit the production cycle of your property. We aim to apply treatment after your crops have been harvested, or for properties containing livestock, when paddocks are on rotation.
NSW DPI Invasives Invertebrates Program Lead Ian Turnbull said the invasive pest has no place in Murwillumbah and it’s important we work together to keep it that way.
“A Biosecurity (Fire Ant) Emergency Order is in place in South Murwillumbah to prevent fire ants from spreading further—spanning a 5km radius from where the nests were found,” Mr Turnbull said.
“The biosecurity order restricts the movement of organic materials that can carry fire ants such as soil, hay, mulch, manure, quarry products, turf and potted plants.
“Human-assisted movement is the biggest risk to further spread—an interactive map indicates if you are located in the Fire Ant Movement Control Area.
“Fire ants can destroy our outdoor lifestyle, cause havoc for our farmers, and render our backyards, playgrounds, and parks to become unusable.
“We need to continue working closely with the National Fire Ant Eradication Program to facilitate thorough treatment and surveillance of the area.”
Mayor of Tweed Shire Chris Cherry urged landowners and tenants to support fire ant treatment activities and provide teams with consent to access their properties by signing an online consent form.
“Just one missed nest could put our entire community and way of life at risk.
“Treatment is the only proven way to eradicate fire ants — we must work as one to protect our residents, agriculture sector and local businesses from their irreversible damage.
“I urge all landowners in the 5 km zone in Murwillumbah to get online and sign the consent form as soon as possible so the treatment teams can move forward with their work.” Cr Cherry said ensuring the area remains fire ant-free is everyone’s responsibility.
“We need everyone to keep their eyes peeled for fire ants and ensure they do not inadvertently spread the pest.
“Please check your backyards, local parks, road verges and paddocks for signs of fire ants and lodge a report if you spot any suspicious ants or nests.
“You can do this online at fireants.org.au or by calling 13 25 23. By working together, we can stop the spread of fire ants and protect our community.”
Where and what to look for
Fire ants are copper brown with a darker abdomen and measure 2–6 mm in size.
They are attracted to warm, open spaces and usually found in areas such as lawns, garden beds, near water sources, along roadsides, and in newly developed areas. Nests can appear as dome-shaped mounds or flat patches of loose soil with no obvious entry or exit holes.
Fire ants swarm when they attack, and victims are stung repeatedly leading to painful inflamed sores. They can also cause severe allergic reactions in humans and animals.
Fire ants can be reported anytime at fireants.org.au or by calling 13 25 23.