STREET by street, quarantine inspectors are combing Fremantle for the dangerous red imported fire ant.
In November, six nests at Fremantle Port were discovered and destroyed, and with 95 per cent of tenanted properties in the port having been inspected there’s been no further detections there.
It could be disastrous for local species and agriculture if the ants get established in WA, and their tail-mounted sting can even be deadly to humans. Playgrounds or parks where they take over can become unusable.
To make sure no adventurous ants got away form the port, ant hunters from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development are currently surveilling a random selection of 560 properties in Fremantle, checking exteriors and gardens.
An inspection team dropped by to survey the exterior of Herald HQ on Thursday January 23, collecting samples of ants present to send back to the labs for testing.
All the specimens they collected appeared normal, but the number of regular ants in an area can be a clue as to whether RIFAs are about: Unlike many ant types which can co-exist, the reddy lads tend to crowd out other species.
This is the first round of five inspections that will take place over two years, with the next stage scheduled for April.
The quarantine area being inspected covers a two kilometre radius, the distance one of their queens can fly to establish a new nest. They’re also capable of travelling via water, linking legs and forming rafts to float along while dispersing troops.
There’s also ongoing restrictions on moving “risk material” out of the quarantine area: potted plants, much, bark, wood chips, hay, straw, soil, turf, shipping containers or digging machinery have to stay put, with a couple of narrow exceptions outlined at agric.wa.gov.au/rifa
by DAVID BELL