Eradicating fire ants with broadcast treatment
Fire ants can destroy crops, damage machinery, and render paddocks, parks, playgrounds and backyards unusable. If left untreated, they will cost the Australian economy billions of dollars each year. Eradication treatment is the only proven way to eliminate fire ants and why we need to work with you to protect the Australian landscape and our outdoor way of life. The presence of fire ants in our environment is a much greater risk to local wildlife, pets, farm animals and humans than the treatment itself.
What does this mean for me?
If your property is in our planned treatment area you can expect our teams to visit your property.
Fire ant eradication involves:
- treating all targeted properties between September and June, whether you see signs of fire ants or not
- treating 100% of properties using a product that is safe for humans, livestock and pets
- treating properties multiple times over several years.
One missed nest could be the difference between reinfestation and further spread, jeopardising eradication efforts. Treatment is applied during the warmer months when fire ants are actively foraging for food.
What is the treatment?
Fire ant treatment contains the same active ingredients found in household flea and mosquito control products but at a significantly lower concentration. It is small pieces of corn grit soaked in soybean oil and infused with an insect growth regulator, either pyriproxyfen or s-methoprene. The product contains minimal levels of the active ingredient. We use pyriproxyfen in most situations, but s-methoprene is used when working near waterways.
Pyriproxyfen is also registered for use with horticultural crops—for treating whiteflies and scale insects, and in animal flea collars, fly control spray and pest and parasite management for horses and cattle. S-methoprene is commonly found in potable drinking water for the prevention of mosquito-borne diseases. It is also used for managing insect pests in stored grain, and in topical flea and tick treatment for cats and dogs.
With 5g of insecticide within each kilogram, the active ingredient equates to only 0.5% of the total product. For a 500m² residential block, just 100g of product is applied containing only half a gram of the active ingredient. On a 10ac (4ha) property, 8kg of the product is applied containing only 40g of insecticide.
How is treatment delivered?
Eradication treatment is delivered using helicopters, utility terrain vehicles, and handheld spreaders in smaller, more easily accessible areas. The method we use varies depending on the size and accessibility of an area. Large acreage properties are most commonly treated by air as this is the most time and cost-efficient method. Handheld spreaders are suited for residential blocks, and utility terrain vehicles for larger parcels of land.
Who is delivering treatment?
Our field officers are authorised under the Biosecurity Act 2014 (the Act) to deliver fire ant treatment. They drive a vehicle displaying our program logo and carry Queensland Government identification. Officers will only ever need access to the outdoor areas of your property.
How does treatment work and is it safe?
The treatment products we use are regulated by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). The APVMA scientifically evaluates the safety and efficacy of a product in order to protect Australia’s trade and the health and safety of people, animals and the environment.
Fire ant treatment is not a poison, it is tried, tested and approved by the APVMA and is safe for humans and animals when used according to the label and permits. It essentially acts as ‘the pill’ and prevents the queen from reproducing workers. If she cannot replenish her workforce the colony will starve and naturally die out.
The treatment product is thinly distributed across backyards, garden areas, parklands and paddocks. Any foraging fire ants in the vicinity collect the granules and return to the nest. On consumption, the active ingredient is circulated around the colony, affecting the worker ants, larvae and queen. To protect aquatic invertebrates, spiders, worms, snails and insects, we are permitted to use s-methoprene when treating near waterways. Scientific studies have shown that when used in low levels, it has no detectable effects on wildlife or people.
The presence of fire ants in our environment is a much greater risk than the treatment itself. Fire ants can cause population declines in 45% of birds, 38% of mammals, 69% of reptiles and 95% of amphibians. Low concentration rates ensure minimal impact on flora and fauna, and little chance for animals to source enough of the treatment product to negatively affect their health. A horse for example would need to find and consume every single granule on a 3,333m² property to be impacted. Residue testing by the program has demonstrated that the treatment products break down quickly and are undetectable in pastures after approximately 14 days. By following the product application guidelines and permit requirements, we can protect the people and animals within our treatment area whilst eradicating the invasive pest in our midst.
Can I refuse entry to my property for treatment?
Under Section 261 of the Biosecurity Act 2014, authorised officers can enter your property for the purpose of conducting fire ant treatment and surveillance. This is because fire ants pose a significant threat to biosecurity in Australia. Our officers can legally enter without consent, however as a courtesy, we always seek permission. Under the Act, a person must not obstruct an officer from exercising powers of entry. It is an offence and penalties apply for refusal of access.
What do I do after my property has been treated?
For treatment to have the best chance of success, do not water, mow or disturb the area for at least 24 hours. This allows time for foraging fire ants to collect the granules. Protect your property and be aware of restrictions surrounding the movement of organic materials that can carry fire ants—soil, hay, mulch, manure, quarry products, turf and potted plants. Moving just one fire ant queen into the area, accidentally or otherwise, could lead to the infestation of an entire community. Eradication will take a collective and whole-of-community approach. Look for and report fire ants and give our officers access to your property if they need to conduct fire ant eradication activities.
Is treatment required if I don’t see signs of fire ants?
Yes, fire ants can be present even if they are not visible on the surface. They pose an immediate risk to you, your home, and the wider community. There may be nests hiding underground, or on a neighbouring property, jeopardising our eradication efforts.
Report fire ants
If you see suspect ants or nests (it doesn’t have to be on your property), take a photo and let us know immediately. For more information or to report fire ants visit fireants.org.au or call 13 25 23.
Last updated: February 2023