Red imported fire ant: declared pest in Western Australia

Page last updated: Wednesday, 14 July 2021 - 12:21pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Eradication from Australia

The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program formally commenced in September 2001, building on an emergency response after its discovery in February 2001. The program is funded by all Australian states and territories as well as the Commonwealth Government.

The program aims to eradicate this pest, building on expertise shared by international specialists. It is discovering patterns of ant activity and developing new ways to beat them as new challenges arise.

As well as scientific and operational innovation and effort, community support is crucial in the fight to eliminate fire ants from Australia. Support from the South East Queensland community has been vital in reducing their number.

To prevent fire ants spreading to new areas, a restricted area has been established and movement controls are in place for restricted items that could carry them. Residents and businesses operating inside the declared restricted area must adhere to the movement regulations.

How to help

You can assist by submitting suspect RIFA specimens to the Department of Agriculture and Food, although caution must be applied when collecting ants to reduce the risk of being stung.

Suspected RIFA are:

  • small, golden to reddish brown ants 2-6mm long
  • very aggressive when disturbed
  • able to inflict painful stings (pustule formation at sting sites blisters) and sting repeatedly.

Suspected RIFA mounds would be:

  • multiple ant mounds in urban or developed areas
  • up to 40cm high and generally dome-shaped
  • absence of entry and exit holes.

Collection method:

  • Do not disturb the nest as the ants will aggressively defend it.
  • Collect foraging ants away from the nest (ideally a few metres).
  • Kill ants with either aerosol insecticide or boiling water.
  • Use a sealable container (screw top vials) or stick about a dozen suspect ants to clear sticky tape.
  • Include a piece of paper with your submission stating the collector’s contact details. 
  • Do not send live specimens.

The specimens can then be posted to DAFWA's Pest and Disease Information Service:

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Pest and Disease Information Service
3 Baron-Hay Court
South Perth WA 6151

It is important not to mail specimens on a Thursday or Friday. This avoids deterioration while in transit over the weekend.

Contact information

Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS)
+61 (0)8 9368 3080