Bait shortage white-ants bid to end spread of tiny pest

Tracey Ferrier |

The fight is on to prevent the spread of fire ants from Queensland to NSW.
The fight is on to prevent the spread of fire ants from Queensland to NSW.

Efforts to eradicate invasive fire ants have suffered a blow, with authorities revealing they don’t have enough baits.

Landholders in parts of southeast Queensland have been urged to self-treat their properties – even if there’s no evidence of the imported pest – in a bid to stop it reaching NSW.

But that’s been frustrated by a shortage of baits, with those seeking treatment kits being told they may have to wait.

“Due to the large number of orders the delivery of your treatment kit may be delayed,” warns an email from the Fire Ant Suppression Taskforce, seen by AAP.

“We are working with our suppliers to deliver the treatment kits as soon as possible.”

The Invasive Species Council said it learned of the shortage not from the eradication task force, but from other stakeholder groups.

Campaigner Reece Pianta says it’s imperative that authorities secure a steady supply, with demand certain to rise given the recent funding boost for eradication efforts.

“We’ve spoken to the program and they’ve assured us they have found a resolution,” he says.

“This is a huge eradication project and bait supplies is one of the things that could go wrong. It’s really important that this gets fixed as soon as possible.”

Mr Pianta says he’s not aware of any shortages affecting frontline eradication efforts and so far the problem seems to be restricted to the self-treatment part of the program.

“But these are questions that we’re going to be asking as we catch up with the eradication program and the departments that are managing it.”

AAP has sought comment from the eradication program, which recently received an extra $268 million in government funding.

The federal government has warned the pest could cost the Australian economy $1.25 billion a year if the eradiation effort fails.

Almost the entire country is considered suitable habitat for fire ants. The only possible exceptions are Tasmania’s high country and the NSW Snowy Mountains.

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt has warned the ants could do more damage to agriculture and the environment than all of the worst invasive pests combined.