Gladstone could set new record in fire ant eradication

GLADSTONE looks poised to set a new record in invasive pest eradication as the fire ant program this month mobilises ground troops to confirm that the pest is gone. 

Throughout July, a 40-strong surveillance force will inspect Fire Ant Restricted Area sites, waste facilities, quarries and freight yards for fire ants.

The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program Director, Sarah Corcoran, said other countries are looking at Gladstone as a landmark in fire ant eradication. 

"We are confident that our measures to confine and conquer fire ants in Gladstone will achieve eradication in only two and a half years," she said.

"Research shows that four rounds of aerial baiting with insect growth regulators are enough to eradicate fire ants in an area. 

"To make sure the ants are gone for good, we've applied two extra treatment rounds which were completed in April this year.

"Timing is now just right to revisit the area and make sure the ants have been wiped out, and this will be done with the assistance of 40 locals who will be recruited to find them."
 

ERADICATION: A chopper will aerial bait the restricted area encompassing Yarwun, Targinnie and Curtis Island this week.
A chopper conducted aerial baiting in a bid to eradicate fire ants earlier in the year. MARA PATTISON-SOWDEN

 

"We'll also use our sniffer dogs as a final line of defence, giving us almost complete confidence that all known fire ant colonies have been destroyed."

Fire ant detection experts will train the new team in the art of fire ant surveillance, including recognising high-risk materials and identifying fire ants in or on them.
 
To ensure fire ants have not spread beyond known infestations, odour detection dogs will also undertake reconnaissance and surveillance to determine any further points of interest for potential treatment. 

The program will perform its final surveillance in 12 months to confirm the complete eradication of fire ants from Yarwun.

Gladstone Regional Mayor Councillor Gail Sellers urged everyone to stay vigilant and to assist Fire Ant Eradication Program surveillance teams over June while they verify that fire ants have been eradicated. 

"Beating fire ants swiftly benefits everyone, and doing so almost two years' faster than Gladstone's 2006 invasion would be a feather in everyone's cap," she said.

High-risk materials for fire ants include construction and landscaping materials; soil, sand and pot plants; mulch and green waste; baled hay and straw; and machinery and earthmoving equipment.

Because of their aggressive swarm and sting behaviour, fire ants can kill vulnerable animals and humans with anaphylactic reactions to their stings.   

They can eat their way through gardens and crops, and destroy wiring in machinery. 

For more information on the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program, visit here or call 13 25 23.