The tiny but dev­as­tat­ing threat

Monthly Chronicle - - Outdoor Lifestyle -

Fire ant venom is po­tent, es­pe­cially to hu­man skin. Swarm­ing their vic­tims, fire ant st­ings can lead to ana­phy­laxis, a se­ri­ous al­ler­gic re­ac­tion that has re­sulted in 85 deaths in the US alone.

They in­flict se­ri­ous in­jury on wildlife and cat­tle, and are deadly to young, weak and sick crea­tures. Their nests have been found be­neath build­ings, path­ways and roads. Once they’ve taken over an out­door area like a sport­ing field, recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties there come to a stand­still.

In the US the im­pacts of fire ants have been costed at $7 bil­lion a year. In Queens­land, ground zero of the Aussie in­fes­ta­tion so far, the dam­age bill if we do noth­ing, has been put at $45 bil­lion over 30 years. For such a small in­vader, fire ants have sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic, health and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts.

State and fed­eral gov­ern­ments have spent more than $320 mil­lion try­ing to stamp put our in­fes­ta­tions and erad­i­ca­tion is close to com­plete at Glad­stone in Queens­land, and Port Botany, but the large in­fes­ta­tion be­tween Bris­bane and the NSW bor­der re­mains a ma­jor headache for au­thor­i­ties, and may prove more dif­fi­cult to con­trol if it spreads deeper into the Bris­bane hin­ter­lands and north­ern NSW.

A re­cent re­view of the pro­gram con­cluded that erad­i­ca­tion re­mains tech­ni­cally fea­si­ble though what’s lack­ing is a com­mit­ment from all state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments to fund the re­sources needed to get on with the job.

“Suc­cess­ful erad­i­ca­tion re­quires a 10 year fund­ing com­mit­ment from state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments of $32 mil­lion per year to erad­i­ca­tion fire ants in Aus­tralia us­ing new tech­nolo­gies in­clud­ing aerial bait­ing with drones, he­li­copter heat de­tec­tion, ground crews and trained de­tec­tion dogs,” An­drew Cox said.

“Pre­ven­tion through strong biose­cu­rity pro­tec­tions at our country’s en­try points is the quick­est, cheap­est way to stop dan­ger­ous new in­va­sive species from en­ter­ing Aus­tralia. Once they’re here, they must be dealt with quickly and with the full force of state and fed­eral au­thor­i­ties.”

At its next meet­ing in May 2017, the Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter's Fo­rum will con­sider an en­hanced 10 year $380 mil­lion red im­ported fire ant erad­i­ca­tion plan.

Pus­tules which de­velop when some­one is swarmed by fire ants - they at­tack in uni­son. Photo: Mur­ray S. Blum, The Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.