Red imported fire ant - Solenopsis invicta

 Red fire ant Photo S Wilson

Red fire ant (Solenopsis invicta)

The first detection in Australia of red imported fire ant occurred in Brisbane in 2001 and triggered a national cost-shared eradication program led by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries. More information about its management in Queensland is available at http://www.dpi.qld.gov.au/fireants .

The red imported fire ant has the capacity to form 'super colonies' with multiple queens that can provide the ability to spread rapidly and develop extensive colonies. Red imported fire ants are opportunistic feeders that are omnivorous and prey on invertebrates, vertebrates, and plants. They destroy seeds, harvest honeydew from specialised invertebrates and also scavenge. This can affect the whole ecosystem through reducing plant populations and competing with native herbivores and insects for food. For example, the ground-dwelling native bees and Thynid wasps are very 'species specific' and only pollinate native terrestrial orchids. Red Imported Fire Ants feeding on the orchids compete with the native bees and wasps, in addition pollination may not occur.

Australian Government action

Key threatening process

The reduction in the biodiversity of Australian native fauna and flora due to the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta (fire ant) is listed as a key threatening process under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)

Threat abatement plan

Under the EPBC Act the Australian Government, in consultation with the States and Territories and other key stakeholders, is developing a threat abatement plan to provide a national framework to mitigate the potential impact of the group of ants known as tramp ants, including the Red Imported Fire Ant. This Plan will not duplicate activities already underway in Queensland, but will focus on actions such as public education, surveillance and monitoring, quarantine and border control, and development of contingency plans in the other States and Territories. The Australian Government is already providing significant financial support to help manage the Red Imported Fire Ant problem in Queensland.