Fire ant bites on Elena Maher's arm.
Fire ant bites on Elena Maher's arm.

Fire ant inspectors take three months to show up

An Anstead woman said fire ant inspectors took three months to turn up to her property after she alerted them to infestations which left her with nasty bites on her arm.

Even worse, Elena Maher said she now realised at least one of the nests had been there since at least 2016.

And LNP MP for Moggill, Dr Christian Rowan, said it was not the first time constituents had contacted him to complain about long delays.

He recently wrote to State Agriculture Minister, Mark Furner, for an explanation after Westside News last monthreported a resident had found a nest.

"Given the significant biosecurity and health risks of fire ants, I was alarmed to discover that it took nearly two weeks before an identified nest (in his electorate) was responded to by the relevant authorities,'' he said.

"It is unacceptable that local residents, who adhere to the legal requirement of reporting suspected nests within 24 hours, are forced to wait for an adequate response from the Labor Government."

Red fire ants were first detected in Queensland in 2001 but it is believed they had been in the state for at least several years before then.

The South American insects are regarded as one of the world's worst invasive species and inflict very painful bites which in some people can be deadly.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent, shared by all Australian states, in a so far failed effort to eradicate them.


One of the fire ant nests on Elena Maher's property.
One of the fire ant nests on Elena Maher's property.


Another fire ant nest on Elena Maher's property.
Another fire ant nest on Elena Maher's property.


Ms Maher said she had to hound inspectors before they turned up to her property.

"I first reported fire ants at my property around April 18, 2018 after multiple bites on my wrists when I was gardening in one of the garden beds near the house,'' Ms Maher said.

"I immediately filled in the online form on the Biosecurity Queensland (BQ) website to report fire ants, but didn't hear anything back, so I rang them after few weeks and they still did not believe me.''

She said they sent her a test kit but told the agency she was not prepared to approach the nests.

She still heard nothing and employed a pest controller to spray the nests before contacting them again on May 16.

"The team came within few days but they advised that they were here just to confirm the fire ants report, but that for the treatment I was going to be put on a list,'' she said.

"They had a long waiting list so said don't expect anything soon.

"I asked them if fire ants had been reported in my area before, they looked at a map and said no so it was urgent that they would treat the area as soon as possible.''

A treatment team finally came on July 9.


Dr Christian Rowan. Picture: Jono Searle
Dr Christian Rowan. Picture: Jono Searle


BQ said there could be delays in peak reporting periods, such as wet weather, but it was very dry in mid 2018 in the Anstead area.

National Red Imported Fire Ant Program manager, Graeme Dudgeon, said the program aimed to eradicate the pests in southeast Queensland over the next eight years.

"The program's plan involves eradicating the invasive pest in stages starting in the west of the infestation, in the Lockyer Valley and surrounding areas, while containing and suppressing fire ants in other areas including Moggill,'' he said.

"Until eradication treatment can begin in Moggill, the program is responding to public reports of fire ants on a case-by-case basis.

"Priority is given to reports of suspect fire ants in areas of greatest public risk, such as schools, childcare centres, parks and sports fields and the program usually responds within 48 hours.

"Some high infestation areas outside of the eradication areas are also targeted.

"The program responds to other reports as quickly as possible but delays can occur during periods of high demand which often occurs after wet weather, when fire ants build their nests higher and become more visible.''

Mr Dudgeon said they were "always looking to implement improvements'' on how it responded to public reports.

"Recent changes to field operations have resulted in a significant reduction in average time to treat reported fire ants,'' he said.

"Residents also have the option to self-manage fire ant nests on their own property if they wish.

"Research has shown the community understands that biosecurity is a shared responsibility and are willing to play their part.

"Residents can purchase and spread fire ant bait themselves rather than waiting for the program to treat, making sure they act in accordance with label directions, or they can engage a licensed pest manager to carry out the treatment.''


Originally published as Fire ant inspectors take three months to show up