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Fire ants

Fire ant bait frequently asked questions

As part of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program, Biosecurity Queensland undertakes a baiting program for fire ants on targeted properties. This webpage answers the most common questions about fire ant bait treatment.

What chemicals are used in the fire ant baits?

Fire ant bait is made up of corn grit soaked in a mixture of soybean oil and an insect growth regulator (IGR) – either S-methoprene or pyriproxyfen. S-methoprene is widely used in mosquito control programs, and pyriproxyfen is commonly used in dog and cat flea collars.

How does the bait treatment work?

The bait is thinly distributed across backyards and garden areas as well as parklands and paddocks. Any foraging fire ants in the vicinity will collect the bait and take it back to the nest.

The IGR within the bait leads to the sterilisation of the queen ant, preventing her from producing any more worker ants. After the last adult workers have died of old age (approximately 3-4 months) the queen is effectively starved, and the nest will naturally die out.

How much of each chemical is used?

On an average suburban residential block (approximately 500 m2) about 100 grams of bait will be used, which is around a half a teaspoon per metre2. As the corn grits consist of 0.5% insecticide, very little active ingredient is distributed.

How safe are these chemicals?

The bait treatment is not harmful to humans or animals, as it is specifically targeted at fire ants. After the baits are distributed, they rapidly break down in direct sunlight.

The baits are used according to the conditions prescribed on the relevant product labels and permits from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority APVMA; an Australian Government regulatory body) to ensure safety to humans, animals and the environment.

Are these chemicals safe during pregnancy?

Scientific testing does not indicate that these insecticides can cause birth defects. The way these baits are used is considered to pose no risk to pregnant women or their unborn babies. However, it is always important to minimise exposure to all chemicals during pregnancy.

What precautions do I need to take?

The fire ant bait treatments are considered to pose no risk to public health or the health of pets. However, householders should ensure that young children and pets are kept from crawling on baited areas for a day or so following treatment, and that they do not try to eat any of the bait material soon after it is applied. Apart from this precautionary measure, no other specific health precautions by householders are considered necessary. It is quite safe to walk on ground that has been treated with bait.

What should I do if my child swallows some bait?

Exposure to active chemical is likely to be very low, particularly after a day or more has passed since the bait was applied. As these chemicals are of very low toxicity, no adverse effects would be expected if any bait were to be swallowed. However, if you have any concerns, seek medical advice from your family doctor.

What should be done if I think someone has become sick from the baits?

Given the low toxicity of the baits, no adverse health effects would be expected from the bait. However, if you do think someone has become sick as a direct result of fire ant baits, first, ensure that medical advice and attention is sought from your family doctor. Please notify Biosecurity Queensland by calling 13 25 23, following consultation with your doctor.

How is the bait distributed?

There are three main methods of distributing the bait, by:

  • foot - with a hand held spreader
  • all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or quad bike
  • air - using a helicopter.

The method of bait distribution varies depending on the size of each property and accessibility. Officers use hand held spreaders on residential blocks and ATVs are used on larger properties. Large acreage properties are targeted for aerial treatment as it can deliver broad scale treatment over large areas in a timely and cost efficient manner.

Do I need to take any precautions after my property has been treated?

For treatment to have the best chance of success, you must not water, mow or disturb your lawn, gardens or paddocks for 48 hours to allow for foraging fire ants to collect the bait. The active ingredient in the bait breaks down in a matter of days.

Restrictions apply to the movement of materials that could carry fire ants such as soil, mulch, animal manures, baled hay or straw, potted plants and turf.

Before moving materials that could carry fire ants, please visit our fire ant movement controls page.

How regularly is this treatment required?

Properties within the designated treatment area are required to be treated two or three times between the months of September to May (weather permitting). Repeated rounds of bait treatment may be required to eradicate fire ants in your area.

Bait treatment is only conducted during the warmer months when the ants are actively foraging for food.

How much does treatment cost?

There is no cost to you when your property is treated for fire ants.

Who will enter my property?

Only Biosecurity Queensland authorised officers will enter your property or site. They are easily identified by their uniform and identification badges. Their vehicles have signs identifying them as ‘Biosecurity Queensland’ and/or ‘Fire ant program’.

Can I refuse entry to my property for treatment?

Under the Biosecurity Act 2014, Biosecurity Queensland authorised officers can enter any property to conduct treatment and surveillance activities for fire ants. Entry to all properties for treatment and surveillance is essential in eradicating fire ants and a resident cannot refuse access. Under the Act a person must not obstruct an authorised officer in the exercise of an authorised person’s powers or penalties will apply.

Why does my property require treatment if I don't have fire ants?

As part of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program, Biosecurity Queensland undertakes a baiting program for fire ants on all properties in known fire ant areas that may be at risk of being or becoming infested. The bait is also distributed so any foraging fire ants can collect the bait and take it back to the nest. Immature nests could be on your property and not visible until they mature.

Report fire ants

If you see any ants or mounds that you think may be fire ants, use your mobile device to take a photo and report online or call 13 25 23.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)
Last updated
1 February 2018
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