Managing soil

Managing soil in a fire ant biosecurity zone

Soil, building site, development site, inspector, biosecurity, excavator

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

What do I need to do?

The Biosecurity Regulation 2016 (Regulation) and the Soil Movement Guideline, developed under the Biosecurity Act 2014 (the Act), outlines how soil products such as fill, clay, scrapings and any material moved from the ground must be managed in fire ant biosecurity zones.

Treating soil prior to excavation

For business operators, it is recommended that a licensed pest manager is engaged two weeks prior to the anticipated excavation date to:
✔ inspect the area to be excavated — if fire ants are found report them
✔ undertake direct nest injection (DNI) of any fire ant nests
✔ treat the site with an appropriate bait to prevent fire ants becoming established in the area to be excavated.

At residential properties, individuals can pre-treat an area that is to be excavated using specific household pesticides that are available from retail stores.

The products used should be recognised by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) as an appropriate product for treating fire ants.

Insecticides must be used in accordance with the conditions of the APVMA permit, the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and in conjunction with the product’s label. You can search for permits on the APVMA website at

Taking soil from depth

A newly established, or young fire ant colony, is often located within the first metre of soil. Removing the top one metre of soil at a site, undertaking the necessary excavation and then replacing the original top one metre of soil may reduce ant activity and the risk of ant movement to another location.

The top one metre of soil should not be mixed with the soil being moved from the site. The top one metre should be retained on site or taken to a waste facility within the fire ant biosecurity zones (restrictions apply).

This method is not recommended for areas where the soil type is soft, loamy or sandy as fire ant nests can extend further than one metre below the surface in areas with these soil types.


To ensure you are compliant, any untreated soil scheduled to be taken off-site should be disturbed before it is moved to another location.

Disturbance means undertaking one or a combination of the following activities using machinery:
✔ vigorously turning
✔ crushing
✔ washing
✔ screening a soil stockpile.


If the soil will be stored on the property for more than 24 hours, you should use the following storage options:
✔ off-ground and covered (e.g. in a shed, under a shade cloth or tarpaulin), or
✔ on-ground, and covered, either on:
o concrete or bitumen (no cracks), or
o a barrier that cannot be penetrated by fire ants (e.g. 200 micron unperforated plastic sheeting), or
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 APVMA website for suitable products and concentrations. If the processed materials are stored on compacted ground, the whole surface area must be treated.

It is also important to keep the treated area free of material that could form an untreated bridge for fire ants access the material.

If the materials are stockpiled, the piles must be periodically disturbed to prevent fire ants building nests within the stockpile. Periodically means:
✔ every 21 days, and
✔ 24 hours prior to moving the material to another location.


You may move soil within, across or outside the fire ant biosecurity zones if you:
✔ follow the mitigation methods outlined on this page
✔ transport the material directly to a nearby waste facility by following these restrictions:
o material originating within zone 1 can be moved to a waste facility inside zone 1 or 2
o material originating inside zone 2 can be moved to a waste facility inside zone 2 only

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

If you are unable to fulfil these requirements and you want to move the material from the current site then you must apply for a biosecurity instrument permit (BIP) 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