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Fire Ants

Fire ants were first detected in the Brisbane area in February 2001. Under the Biosecurity Act 2014 they are a Category 1 restricted pest and pose a serious threat to our environment, economy, tourism and agricultural industries.

The Ipswich Motorway Upgrade Rocklea to Darra—stage 1 project is located within Biosecurity Fire Ant Zone 1. We are committed to prevent the spread of fire ants during these works.

What do they look like?

Diagram of various sized fire ants

Fire ants range from 2 to 6mm in size. They are coppery-brown in colour with a dark abdomen. They are aggressive and inflict a painful sting.

Fire ant nests usually have no obvious entry holes. They are found in open areas such as lawns, alongside roads and in pastures but can also be found under logs, rocks or garden materials. The nests are usually dome-shaped mounds and can be up to 40cm high.

How do fire ants spread?

Fire ants spread naturally through mating. A newly mated female (queen) can fly up to two kilometres to find a suitable nesting site.

Fire ants can also be spread by human activity. Movement of items such as soil, mulch, baled straw, potted plants and turf as well mining or quarrying by-products can spread fire ants. Moving items and containers which have been stored in infested areas can also spread fire ants.

How are fire ants being controlled within the project site?

We will take all reasonable steps to prevent the spread of fire ants and will adhere to obligations under the Biosecurity Act 2014. This includes:

  • understanding what fire ants look like and what materials they might be living in
  • cleaning machinery and equipment before moving it off site
  • inspecting material moving on and off site that might carry fire ants for any ant activity.

Key project personnel have undergone training by Biosecurity Queensland. They will regularly inspect the site and ensure we are meeting our commitment to preventing the spread of fire ants.

What effect can fire ants have?

Fire ants pose a significant threat to our tourism and agricultural industries as well as seriously impacting our health and wellbeing. If left unchecked, they can have a devastating impact on our environment. Being incredibly aggressive and invasive, fire ants have the ability to seriously affect our native wildlife. The impact of fire ants is not restricted to people. Pets and domestic animals can also be stung and injured, and may have allergic reactions or be blinded by exposure to the venom.

What should I do if I am stung by fire ants?

Encounters with fire ants usually involve dozens of ants moving quickly and undetected. By the time they sting, a large number of ants could be on your body, all stinging at once. Stings from fire ants can cause a painful, burning, itching sensation which can last for up to an hour. Multiple stings give the sensation that the body is on fire. If stung by fire ants:

  • apply a cold compress to relieve the swelling and pain
  • gently wash the affected area with soap and water and leave the blister intact
  • seek medical attention if you are allergic to insect stings or experience allergy symptoms.

If your animal has been stung, seek medical attention from your local vet.

What should I do if I find fire ants?

Do not touch or attempt to treat or destroy them. Contact Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or report online at

Last updated
09 January 2019