Invasive red imported fire ant detected in WA

An invasive ant species has been discovered in WA with the State Government warning residents to be wary of further appearances.

State Government authorities have detected the red imported fire ant species at Fremantle Port, with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development treating several nests.

Destruction of nests have destroyed the ants at the port and prevented further spread of the pest.

However, the department is surveying the port and nearby surroundings for any further signs of the ant.

It was the first time the red imported fire ant has been found in WA.

The ant is a native to South America and is considered one of the world’s worst invasive ant species.

It can form “super colonies” with multiple queens that develop extensive colonies and spread quickly.

Ant attacks can have a very adverse effect to human health, after inflicting a painful fiery sting, that can cause a severe acute reaction.

The State Government said Fremantle Port workers, local residents and businesses are being asked to be alert and report any unfamiliar ants in the area.

The ants look similar to common native ants, are reddish brown in colour with a darker abdomen and are between two to six millimetres long.

They come in a variety of sizes in the nests, which are often found in open areas including lawns, firebreaks and fence lines.

Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the ant is a risk to WA.

“The pest poses a significant threat to the environment, agriculture, the economy, human health and Australia’s outdoor lifestyle,” Ms MacTiernan said

She added the government is working to eradicate the threat.

“We are undertaking surveillance around Fremantle to determine whether they have spread,” she said.

However, she added that the public can help.

“The public have a critical role to play in this situation: we are calling on Fremantle residents and workers to keep an eye out and to report any unfamiliar ants, to help protect WA from this pest,” Ms MacTiernan said.

Any sightings of the ant can be reported to the department through the MyPestGuide Reporter app, making a report online at mypestguide.agric.wa.gov.au or by contacting the Pest and Disease Information Service.

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