Dogs used to clear property suspected of having fire ants
ODOUR-detection dogs were used to clear a Ballina property of suspicions of having an infestation of imported red fire ants.
The clearance was done by NSW Department of Primary Industries on Wednesday.
"The specially-trained dogs from Queensland double-checked the Ballina property after initial investigations found no signs of the destructive ant," said Royce Holtkamp, DPI strategy leader for invasive species.
"The investigation follows the tracing of past deliveries from a turf farm at Jimboomba, near Beaudesert in Queensland, which was recently found to be infested with red imported fire ants.
"A delivery of turf to Ballina had the potential to transfer fire ants with the grass," Mr Holtkamp said.
"A DPI regulatory officer checked the Ballina site and found no evidence of the ants.
"To be totally sure the site was clear, we engaged the Biosecurity Queensland odour-detection dogs.
"The red fire ant has not been detected anywhere in NSW and measures such as this are critical to keep NSW free from the pest."
Red fire ants are a serious invasive species.
"Fire ants have not yet been found in NSW but there is an outbreak just across the border in south-eastern Queensland - which is currently contained within a restricted area totalling 120,714ha," Mr Holtkamp said.
"The chance of fire ants spreading into NSW is significant, so we need to check any high-risk movements from this area quickly."
Mr Holtkamp said the estimated cost to Australia if fire ants established throughout their potential range was $43 billion over 30 years.
"It is vital that local authorities are aware of the ant and how to identify it - considering there is an infestation just across the border.
"Farmers, land managers and general public are also encouraged to keep en eye out for the ant," he said.
- Fire ants are copper-brown with darker abdomen and vary in length from 2-6mm.
- They are aggressive, attacking en masse if disturbed, and give a burning, painful sting that can last up to one hour.
- They produce various shaped nests, often dome-shaped mounds up to 40cm high, usually with no clear entry or exit holes on the surface and a honeycomb-like internal structure beneath the soil.
- They can significantly affect agricultural industries and their painful sting also makes them a social menace.
- Newborn or hatching farm animals are particularly prone to attacks that can lead to death.
- Fire ants also invade food and water supplies of animals, for example, hay, stock feed and water troughs.
- Pets and domestic animals can also be stung and injured, and may have allergic reactions or be blinded by exposure to the venom.
- Phone 1800 084 881 if you see fire ants.