Checking for fire ant nests is a key part of our eradication plan.
Under our Fire Ant Response Plan 2023–27, we will stop the spread of fire ants by conducting containment activities around the outside of the infestation.
Our current containment boundary is a 5 km band that forms a horseshoe from the Moreton Bay to the Lockyer Valley and down to the Tweed Shire.
Containment includes targeted surveillance activities that check for the presence or absence of fire ants. This is done year-round, with an intensive period of work done in the cooler months – when fire ants nests are more visible.
The information collected during our containment activities help with determining success of eradication treatment and responding to nests found in new areas.
We conduct 3 types of surveillance:
- Clearance surveillance — conducted on targeted sites within the eradication treatment and containment area for the purpose of detecting any remaining infestation. We will conduct a majority of this work by air using world-first technology.
- Post-treatment validation — conducted in areas we have treated repeatedly to determine if the treatment has been successful.
- Outbreak control — completed in response to infestation found in our containment boundary and outside our operational area.
We complete these activities using trained field officers, odour detection dogs and aircraft with specialist technology.
Our officers visually check the ground and ideal habitats for fire ants.
Our fire ant odour detection dogs are specially trained to detect the ant’s scent and our use of these dogs is a world first. Our dogs can find nests not visible to the human eye and can detect the foraging pheromone from up to 30 m away.
We use new and improved remote sensing technology to help us look for fire ant nests.
This technology, which consists of multispectral cameras mounted to a helicopter, scans the landscape for fire ant nests. It is not used anywhere else in the world.
Our helicopters fly at an altitude of 750 feet (230 m).
During our remote sensing fights, we capture long and shortwave infrared and near-infrared images, and standard imagery from the visual spectrum (red, green, blue). The combination of these image types allows us to capture important details that cannot be seen with the naked eye alone, including the heat signature of fire ant nests.
We then analyse the images using an artificial intelligence algorithm to determine what could be a fire ant nest that is then validated by our teams.
Identifying small points in a large and complex image is difficult, and the AI sometimes provides ‘false positive’ results. These results are important as they will help us improve our surveillance methods and provide us with confidence that an area is free of fire ants.
The National Fire Ant Eradication Program (through the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries) is collecting data as part of a biosecurity surveillance program to identify the location of fire ant nests as authorised under Section 294 of the Biosecurity Act 2014. The information is collected by Outline Global on behalf of the department and is used to direct and monitor fire ant management and eradication activities only.
It is not intended that any personal information will be collected from this surveillance however, any personal information inadvertently captured through surveillance will be redacted from any footage. All information will only be used or disclosed for the detection and management of the fire ant program unless otherwise authorised or required by law. For further privacy information go to: daf.qld.gov.au/site-information/privacy