Concern the Queensland floods could have spread fire ants, but minister says it’s not likely – Michmutters

Concern the Queensland floods could have spread fire ants, but minister says it’s not likely

There are fears of the invasive fire ant, which can form a raft to move along waterways, may have spread during record floods in southern Queensland.

The state government said floodwaters moved too fast for the insects, but the opposition has called for evidence the risk had been assessed.

Landholders, meanwhile, said they were worried eradication programs were not moving fast enough.

The tiny pest has the potential for disastrous impact should it move unchecked and experts have warned it could cause billions of dollars of social, economic and environmental damage.

Unseasonal rain earlier this year wreaked havoc in the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, including two major floods only 10 weeks apart.

The movement of such floodwater has LNP’s opposition spokesman for agriculture and Gympie MP Tony Perrett worried.

“We just don’t need them to be spread any further but more importantly, go undetected,” he said.

Often referred to as a super pest, red imported fire ants are renowned for their ability to not only move across the ground and fly, but also to float.

A raft of fire ants in flood waters in Texas, USA 2020.
A raft of fire ants after flooding in Texas, United States in 2020.(Supplied: Bill O’Zimmermann)

The National Fire Ant Eradication Program identified the insects could raft on water by linking their claws and trapping air under their bodies, allowing them to float in groups and travel long distances on waterways.

Mr Perrett asked the government via a question on notice if it was investigating the risk, and if the ants had spread.

“It’s quite clear that they say they have a remarkable ability to be able to survive floods and can float for weeks until they come to dry land or a place where they can rest again,” he said.

“So, I am seriously concerned that they have spread and if that’s the case, then we need to know that.”

Tony Perrett standing in front of the muster stage.
Mr Perrett wants the government to be sure the destructive fire ant has not spread.(Supplied: Tony Perrett)

Floods ‘too fast’ for fire ants

In response, Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said he had been advised the floods were too swift to allow the fire ants to raft.

“The information we have at hand is that the 2022 flooding event was a rapid event in terms of rises and the high flow rates, which actually reduced the likelihood of any spread,” he said.


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