AN extra 140 people have been recruited to help exterminate the surging fire ant population in Queensland.
Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said the $411.4 million 10-year eradication program will commence this month and is expected to double the state’s effort in neutralising the threat of red imported fire ants.
Granulated bait will be distributed over lawns, garden beds, and other open areas either by foot, all-terrain vehicle or by helicopter, starting in the west of the state, and finishing in the east
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“An intensive bait treatment program will get under way this month in outer western infestation areas of the Lockyer Valley, Ipswich and Scenic Rim,” Minister Byrne said.
“Three rounds of bait treatment will be applied over a nine month period, with the bait treatment expected to commence this month.
“This year, the program is expecting to treat more than 250,000 hectares, compared to almost 100,000 ha completed last year.”
The bait treatment is specifically targeted at fire ants and is not harmful to humans or animals.
Residents will be notified when treatment has been carried out, advising them of the importance not to water, mow or disturb their lawns and gardens for at least 48 hours.
Minister Byrne said Australia was the closest any country had come to eradicating fire ants.
“This job will be challenging and cannot be done without the continued support of industry and the community to eradicate fire ants once and for all,” he said.
Minister Byrne said the Palaszczuk Government welcomed the additional funding of $411.4 million over 10 years, endorsed at the Agricultural Minister’s Forum in July 2017 with Queensland’s share being $43.2 million.
“The additional funding will not only increase the program’s treatment and surveillance capacity, it will allow for more advanced, innovative techniques and tools to achieve greater efficiency in eradication efforts,” he said.
“While the program focusses on the expanded treatment plan, it will continue to respond to public reports and destroy fire ant infestations when detected to reduce immediate risks to the public.
“The funding will also result in increased scientific analysis of eradication processes and tools, odour detection dogs, community engagement, remote sensing surveillance research and development, and improved IT systems.
“An independent Steering Committee has been established to provide high-level strategic oversight of the program.”
Successive Queensland Governments have spent $353 million on the eradication of fire ants since they were first detected in 2001.
Anyone who sees any suspect ants or nests is urged to take a photograph and submit it online at www.daf.qld.gov.au/fireants or call Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.