SCENIC Rim properties will be treated for fire ants from this month as part of a $411 million tax payer funded program to reduce infestations.
Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said the decade-long program would target areas in the Scenic Rim, Lockyer Valley and Ipswich, with three rounds of bait treatment to be applied over the next nine months.
“The focus of the eradication program over the next 10 years is to reduce the size of the infestation in a staged approach, rolling out an eradication planned treatment program from west to east,” he said.
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Mr Byrne said successive Queensland governments had spent $353 million since 2001 to destroy the pest, with efforts to neutralise the threat boosted thanks to increased funding.
Mr Byrne said a further $411.4 million would be spent nationally over 10 years on fire ants, with Queensland’s share being $43.2 million.
He said the expenditure was endorsed at the national Agricultural Minister’s Forum in July.
“The additional funding will not only increase the program’s treatment and surveillance capacity, it will allow for more advanced, innovative techniques and tools to achieve greater efficiency in eradication efforts,” he said.
“This year, the program is expecting to treat more than 250,000 hectares, compared to almost 100,000 hectares completed last year.”
Whether or not further efforts by Biosecurity Queensland to exterminate the pest will work is yet to be proven.
Fire ants broke south-east Queensland containment lines in August despite ongoing baiting efforts.
The nests were found on vacant land at Lowood in the Somerset region, stretching more than six kilometres outside the biosecurity zone designed to restrict them.
Up to 140 additional staff will be recruited as part the state and federal governments’ latest effort to control the pest in Queensland.
Program director Geoff Kent said while there had been no significant change in the overall infestation area in the Scenic Rim, fire ants been detected.
“The program acknowledges that the recent flooding of the Logan and Albert rivers has increased the spread of this pest more widely in this region,” he said.
“Fire ants also mound up their nests more in the cooler weather and therefore have been more visible during this time.”
Mr Kent said granulated baits would be distributed by Biosecurity Queensland officers over lawns, garden beds and other areas via foot, all-terrain vehicle and helicopter.
When questioned by Beaudesert Times whether property owners could lay ant baits themselves, Mr Kent said residents were discouraged from taking part in fire ant eradication, for safety reasons.
“Fire ants can inflict extremely painful stings,” he said.
“Additionally, if not done correctly, this can potentially contribute to the spread of this invasive pest, as the worker ants will simply evacuate their queen to a safe new location and start a new nest.
“Only Biosecurity Queensland technical officers are qualified to treat fire ant nests by direct nest injection using pesticide.”
While Mr Kent said the method of bait delivery and treatment areas could be changed at the “program’s discretion”, helicopters would only be used for aerial treatment across large acreage areas and in accordance with Civil Aviation Safety Authority requirements.
“The method of bait distribution varies depending on the size of each property and accessibility,” Mr Kent said.
“Program officers will be in contact with owners of farms and large acreage sites where aerial treatment by helicopter is to occur.”
Mr Kent said residents could not refuse access to Biosecurity Queensland officers for fire ant treatment.
“As authorised by the Biosecurity Act 2014, Biosecurity Queensland officers have the power to enter properties to conduct treatment and surveillance activities for fire ants,” he said.
“Under the Act, a person must not obstruct an authorised officer in the exercise of their powers or penalties will apply.
“However, it should be noted that, in general, the program gets very good cooperation from landholders.”
Mr Kent said it was essential that residents and businesses supported the program.
“Early detection means the colonies can be treated before they have a chance to spread,” he said.
“It is important to note that fire ants can fly from 2 to 5 kilometres when looking to build a new nest and can also be transported through the movement of materials such as soil, turf, mulch, hay, potted plants and animal manure.”
To report fire ants, visit daf.qld.gov.au/fireants or call Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.