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Fire ants

Top 5 places to check for fire ants

What to look for when checking for fire ants

Identifying fire ant nests

Look out for nests that look like mounds of loose sifted soil with no obvious entry or exit hole.

Identifying fire ants

The distinguishing features of fire ants are their:

  • variation in size, between 2 to 6mm
  • copper brown colour with a darker abdomen.

When checking nests for fire ants, gently poke the nest with a long stick and observe the ants that come out.

Be careful not to get too close, as fire ants are aggressive. They will swarm when disturbed and have a painful sting.

Where to look for fire ants

Residential properties: Top 5 places to check for fire ants

  1. Lawns: Fire ants don't like too much shade, so open grassy areas in the sun are very appealing. However nests can be difficult to spot in long grass.
  2. Footpaths: Fire ants are drawn to open, warm areas, particularly footpaths and driveways.
  3. Garden beds: As they are drawn to disturbed soil, fire ants are often found in or around garden beds, particularly if recent planting has taken place and there's not too much shade.
  4. Taps: Fire ants are often found near water sources such as taps, sprinklers and pools of water.
  5. Utility pits: Fire ants construct an underground network of tunnels from which they forage and can nest in cavities or voids in the ground. Utility pits for water, gas or telephone, for example, are sometimes occupied by fire ants.

Rural properties: Top 5 places to check for fire ants

  1. Dams and irrigation lines: Fire ants like to nest near water sources, particularly around the edge of dam and irrigation lines. Look for a mound (especially in winter), or any soil disturbance that could potentially be a nest or foraging tunnel.
  2. Edges of cultivated land: Fire ants that establish in cropped areas often migrate to the headlands or edges of the crop to escape mechanical soil tillage which may disrupt their nest.
  3. Cropland post-harvest: Fire ants deliberately choose open, disturbed land to establish nests in, and are attracted to any land that has experienced recent disturbance.
  4. Fence lines: Fire ant nests are often found under fence lines or alongside fence posts where there is likely to be less disruption by tillage or mowing.
  5. Piles of organic matter: Fire ants are particularly attracted to piles of organic matter such as mulch, compost, animal manure, poultry litter, hay or fodder from which they use for food or shelter.

Further information

In this guide:

  1. Top 5 places to check for fire ants
  2. Living and working in fire ant biosecurity zones
  3. Fire ant biosecurity zones suburbs list
  4. What's involved in fire ant treatment
  5. Fire ant treatment frequently asked questions
  6. Training and education about fire ants
  7. Fire ant biology and ecology

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