DPI puts 5km exclusion zone around Wardell to halt fire ant spread

State Government response team member at a fire ant nest in Wardell. Photo: Contributed

Fire ants have made it to Wardell.

NSW Department of Primary Industries said there is an exclusion zone of 5km around Wardell in an attempt to halt the spread of fire ants after a resident contacted them.

The response team was on site at Wardell within 24 hours of being contacted, treating the nest and fencing off the area.

The chemical used to treat the surrounding area is non-toxic and is safe to humans and pets.

An Emergency Order for the Wardell area is now in place which restricts the movement of anything that can carry fire ants (pot plants, soil, mulch, turf) from moving out of the area.

Next steps will be inspection of the broader area by a team from the National Fire Ant Eradication Program, and then non-toxic treatment over that area.

The quick thinking of a gardener calling in the suspected fire ants meant the response team could treat this nest quickly and make it safe for the people living around it.

When the gardener disturbed the nest, he was bitten and suffered what was described as blistering pain.

Last year, fire ants were found at Murwillumbah.

Their march southwards to Wardell comes with warnings.

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt has said fire ants could cause more damage to agriculture and the environment than cane toads, rabbits, feral cats and foxes combined if they were allowed to spread across Australia.

The ants are known to travel in floodwaters by locking together to create rafts and are most active during wet weather, according to the council.

Fire ants are native to South America and arrived in Australia in the 1990s through freight.

Anyone who finds suspected fire ants in NSW can call the state biosecurity hotline on 1800 680 244.

NSW DPI will have a drop in centre open from 8.30am tomorrow, Sunday, January 21 at Wardell District War Memorial Hall.

Go there to find out more information on how the detection impacts you and what you can do to help.

Read more about fire ants here.

Can we stop the spread of fire ants?

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