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New Red Imported Fire Ant nest found

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Communities across the Northern Rivers are being urged to be on the lookout for Red Imported Fire Ants after a new nest was found at South Murwillumbah last Thursday only metres from a nest that was destroyed in November 2023.

Red Imported Fire Ants, one of the worst invasive species ever to enter Australia, were first detected in southeast Queensland in February 2001 and contained, until in November 2023 nests were found at South Murwillumbah, then in January 2024 a nest was found at Wardell.

The ants, which are copper brown in colour, with a darker abdomen, measure 2-6mm in length, are highly aggressive and have the potential to cost the nation more than $2 billion a year.

Last Thursday, May 9, the NSW Government confirmed the detection of an immature Red Imported Fire Ant nest at South Murwillumbah, which was quickly destroyed by Tweed Shire Council staff, NSW Government and National Fire Ant Eradication Program NFAEP teams.

The new nest, which was 10-15 meters from one destroyed in November 2023, is considered low-risk due to the absence of reproductive ants.

Helicopters have been brought in by the NFAEP to undertake extensive aerial and ground treatment across targeted properties in Murwillumbah, with access to 100 per-cent of properties needed to ensure eradication success.

The treatment program involves a direct injection with fipronil to all known nests, followed by a broadcast treatment using insect growth regulator applied either aerially or by ground teams spread out from 2km to 5km.

The existing control order from November 2023 is still in place restricting the movement of any potential Red Imported Fire Ant carrier materials including mulch, compost, growing media, soil, hay, chaff, silage, potted plants, turf, agricultural and earth moving equipment, sand and gravel, from the area.

Minister for Agriculture, Tara Moriarty said the NSW Government had committed $95 million to prevent the further spread of Red Imported Fire Ants into NSW.

“I urge everyone in the local area to check their premises, yards and paddocks for the red imported fire ants and then reporting any suspected sighting immediately,” she said.

“Biosecurity is a shared responsibility, and everyone working together is needed to keep fire ants out of NSW.”

Tweed Shire Mayor Chris Cherry said the detection of a new Red Imported Fire Ant nest at the original site of infestation underscored the importance of remaining on guard.

“We are once again grateful for the ongoing vigilance of our contractors, the NSW DPI and the National Fire Ant Eradication Program (NFAEP) teams who are monitoring this site at South Murwillumbah and detected this new incursion,” Cr Cherry said.

“While this new discovery was not unexpected, it is a reminder that the problem of fire ants remains with us in the Tweed.

“We cannot afford to let our defences down – it is vital all landowners continue to work with the responsible jurisdictions and allow consent for ongoing treatment on their land.” 

Clarence Valley Independent 15 May 2024

This article appeared in the Clarence Valley Independent, 15 May 2024.

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