Managing potted plants

Managing potted plants in a fire ant biosecurity zone

pot plant, hand, soil

To prevent the spread of one of the world’s most invasive pests, risk mitigation controls must be used when managing potted plants in fire ant biosecurity zones.

What do I need to do?

The Biosecurity Regulation 2016 (Regulation) outlines how potted plants must be managed in the fire ant biosecurity zones.

To ensure you are compliant, you should follow the methods outlined below, unless the potted plants:
✔ moved directly to a waste facility, subject to the zone restrictions below
✔ have been at the property for less than 24 hours.

If you are moving plants within the fire ant biosecurity zones, you must comply with Queensland legislation regardless of whether the destination is within Queensland or interstate. This is in addition to any other entry requirements imposed by the destination State or Territory.

Storing potted plants

Correct storage is vital to ensure that potted plants remain free from fire ants.

If a potted plant does not have any treatment protection and has remained on the property for over 24 hours, you must have used the following storage options before movement off-site:

✔ off-ground and covered

✔ on-ground and covered, either on:
o concrete or bitumen (no cracks)
o a barrier that cannot be penetrated by fire ants (e.g. 200 micron unperforated plastic sheeting)
o compacted ground (other than sand) that has been treated with an appropriate chemical product before storage.

Chemical treatment must be applied around the perimeter of all on-ground storage options. This should be done by applying a 30 cm wide strip of insecticide containing bifenthrin. Check the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority  (APVMA) website for suitable products and chemical concentrations.

Keep the treated area free of material that could form an untreated 'bridge' to the potted plants.

Treating potted plants

Treating potted plants helps minimise the risk of fire ant infestation.

Preventative treatment methods include:

✔ incorporating granular insecticides in potting media — this method is effective for up to two years.
✔ drenching or dipping pot plants — this method is effective for up to 28 days.
✔ spraying potted plants (with correct storage) — this method is only suitable for plants stored at least 30 cm off the ground on a mesh grid. The treatment method is effective for up to 28 days.

Visit the APVMA website for detailed information about suitable products, methods and chemical treatment concentrations.

Moving potted plants off-site

It is an offence to move a live fire ant from a property. You can only move potted plants within, across or outside the fire ant biosecurity zones if you either:

✔ follow treatment and storage methods outlined

✔ transport the product directly to a nearby waste facility in accordance with the following zone restrictions:
o material from zone 1 can be moved to a waste facility within zone 1 or 2
o material from zone 2 can be moved to a waste facility within zone 2 only

✔ move the material within 24 hours of it arriving at the original place.

✔ bare-root the plant and re-pot it at the final destination. Without the soil or potting media, plants are NOT considered a high-risk material and can be moved without further treatment

You can also use our fire ant advice tool to find out what requirements apply to you.

If you are unable to comply with these conditions and want to move plants from the current site then you must request a biosecurity instrument permit on our website or call 13 25 23.

Keeping a record

You should always keep a written record of the steps you take to ensure processed materials are stored and moved correctly, including chemical treatments applied and/or disturbance activities completed. These records should be kept for a minimum of two years.

More information

For more information or to complete our free fire ant training visit our website or call 13 25 23.

Last updated: August 2022