Teams search for fire ant infestation

By REN LANZONrlanzon@gladstoneobserver.dyndns.org

A SPECIALIST DPI team carefully combed over a number of Gladstone dock and industry sites yesterday to check for any presence of the dreaded fire ant.

It is one of two teams from the Department of Primary Industries Fire Ant Control Centre (FACC) to arrive in Gladstone since the department was alerted of the possible presence of fire ants by an employee of a major industry.

FACC general manager Keith McCubbin said tests were being conducted on a sample of ants provided by the employee who collected them because of their aggressive behaviour.

The tests were expected to be completed by mid or late next week.

"I think we are reasonably certain it is some sort of fire ant because there are six or seven fire ant strains in the world, two of them in Brisbane,'' Mr McCubbin said. Fire ants, which originated in South America, have become a significant pest in the United States where they have attacked humans and animals.

Mr McCubbin said if the tests, being conducted by Queensland University, indicated another strain, it could mean the pest did not come to Gladstone from any existing Australian infestation, but directly from overseas.

This could occur if they arrived in soil or other debris in shipping containers.

The department spokesman said Gladstone residents should not assume the presence of a FACC team meant there were fire ant nests in the area.

"Rather we are using our specialist ground surveillance staff to research possible entry vectors and clarify the sensitive areas, such as the docks, are free of the unidentified pest,'' he said.

A second FACC team is at the site where the ants were found to determine the size of the infestation area and to lay poison baits.



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