Find out more about fire ants at community meeting with invasive species officer

Fire ants swarm and bite causing the skin to blister. Photos: Contributed

After three days of surveillance in Wardell and surrounds, no more fire ants have been found.

An Emergency Order remains in place with restricted movement in a 5km ring around Wardell that includes East Wardell, Meerschaum Vale, Bagotville, Empire Vale, Pimlico and Patches Beach.

The Department of Primary Industries confirmed today, Tuesday, January 23, that only one infested site has been identified in Wardell.

The National Fire Ant Eradication Program searched the area and no further fire ant sites were found. Sniffer dogs were used to search for fire ants in a 500m area around the nest site.

That nest site was destroyed, treated and fenced off for human safety on Saturday, January 19. The site was treated with a pesticide that DPI said is safe for humans, animals and the environment. It contains the same active ingredient found in household flea and mosquito control products but at a much lower concentration.

“Investigations into where the ants are from, including genetic analysis, are continuing with tracing of all the inputs of fire ant carrier material into the site progressing and a number of businesses have been inspected and engaged with,” the DPI said.

In the past two days, almost 100 people have visited the government’s pop-up centre at Wardell Memorial Hall to get more information about fire ants.

Here’s what the red fire ant looks like.

“Since November 2023, a total of 520 calls from the community have been received by the NSW Government’s Biosecurity Hotline – with all reports of suspected fire ants deemed negative except for the South Murwillumbah and Wardell detections.”

At a community meeting at Wardell Memorial Hall at 5.30pm tomorrow, Wednesday, DPI’s chief invasive species officer and the National Fire Ant Eradication Program general manager will update people on the response, current situation and next steps to take. 

“The 5km biosecurity control order takes in mostly agricultural and business land usage and the government has appointed a specialist to work closely with local sugar cane farmers and the Cane Growers’ Association to help on ways to minimise disruption to their businesses,” DPI said.

“Under the control order, farm machinery can continue to be moved out of the movement control area, so long as it has been cleaned of soil and mud.”

Materials that may carry fire ants include organic mulch, soil, grass clippings, compost, manure, potted plants, turf and agricultural and earth moving equipment.

How do you know if have fire ants on your property? Here’s how:

Fire ants are:

● aggressive

● will swarm when disturbed

● are dark red-brown in colour

● they are 2–6mm in size

A fire ant nest is:

● made of crumbly soil

● has no entry points

Often in open, sunny areas but are sometimes found in logs or along pavers

Anyone stung by fire ants can follow this advice from the DPI.

If breathing is normal and the stung victim doesn’t have a history of insect allergies they should:

● Apply a cold compress to relieve pain

● Gently wash the affected area with soap and water

● Take an antihistamine to manage minor, localised reactions and itching.

For severe reactions seek urgent medical advice.

If you pet is stung by fie ants do this:

● quickly remove them from the ants or nest

● remove any fire ants from their skin or fur

● give you pet a cool bath if stung to provide some relief

● contact your vet clinic for medical advice

Businesses in Wardell and surrounding areas can get their premises checked for fire ants. Call the Biosecurity Hotline on 1800 680 244.

The DPI has set up a drop-in centre has been set up at the Wardell Memorial Hall, Richmond Street, Wardell. The centre is open 8.30am–4pm.

DPI urges everyone in the exclusion zone to check for fire ant nests. If they find one, take a photo or video. Report suspect fire ant activity to 1800 680 244.

An information meeting for local businesses and the community will be held at Wardell and District War Memorial Hall, Richmond St Wardell from at 5.30pm on Wednesday, January 24. 

Find out more about fire ants here at the DPI website or visit the DPI Facebook page.

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