Portrait of a red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta.
Portrait of a red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Alex Wild - University of Texas

Fire ants found on Sunshine Coast for first time

ONE of Australia's most invasive and devastating species has been found on the Sunshine Coast for the first time.

Biosecurity Queensland has confirmed it found a nest of red imported fire ants in Beerwah, which is outside the fire ant biosecurity zone.

"If (fire ants) establish in Queensland they have the potential to devastate our state's economy, environment and our way of life," the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries said today in a statement.

The nest was the first found on the Sunshine Coast, with others already discovered in Brisbane and most recently Gladstone.

National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program director Geoff Kent praised the resident who reported the nest, which led Biosecurity Queensland to confirm the detection.

"Biosecurity Queensland officers and fire ant detection dogs responded quickly and have been on-site investigating and taking ant specimens for identification," Mr Kent said.

"The laboratory confirmed this afternoon the ant species collected are indeed fire ants."

Mr Kent said officers had detected one fire ant colony at the site however Biosecurity Queensland would be undergoing surveillance activities in the area to determine if there were any more nests.

"Tracing activities will also be conducted in addition to genetic testing which will assist in determining the source of the infestation," he said.

"The fire ant nest was destroyed on-site by direct nest injection with insecticide, and baited the area around the nest with an insect growth regulator to ensure that all ants in the colony are destroyed."

Mr Kent urged residents and business operators in Beerwah to check their properties and work sites for fire ants and report any suspect sightings to Biosecurity Queensland.

Fire ants are one of the world's most invasive species, and are declared a Category 1 pest in Queensland.

The ants vary in size, between 2mm-6mm, are coppery-brown with a dark abdomen, inflict a painful sting and are aggressive.

The nests are mounds of loose soil with no entry or exit holes.

If you see any suspect ants or nests, take a photograph and submit it to the online report form at www.daf.qld.gov.au/fireants or call Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.