Thirty something girl, originally from Sydney but Brisbane is home now. Eats, drinks, socialises, watches art-house, studies the stars, and loves music. I'm a professional copywriter and editor. Hearts writing things.
Published October 21st 2013
Fire ants are a killer
Pets like to play and some enjoy running rampant outdoors. Whether you're a dog owner, a cat owner, or own a different animal entirely, in most households pets are considered a beloved member of the family, so it's important to keep them safe from harmful pests. In addition to ticks, fleas and cane toads, there is another unwelcome predator to be wary of – the fire ant.
Fire ants aren't just your ordinary common ant. These little critters give a very nasty sting. Don't be fooled by their tiny size (2 to 6 mm) as these pests pose a huge problem. If you or your pets come into contact with fire ants they have the potential to cause serious injury and even death, causing painful blisters that can take weeks to heal or triggering severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis.
Fire ants are an introduced species originating from South America. The USA has been battling the epidemic for some time now and sadly their problem is worsening as the dreaded pest continues to spread throughout the country, causing harm to both animals and humans. The problem has been so severe in some cases that dog booties have been created to protect dogs from unwanted contact with fire ants and potential stings. The booties are put onto a dog's feet to protect them as their feet heal from painful sores. Booties would be a totally unnatural sensation for dogs, so I doubt a dog would enjoy wearing them even under normal circumstances.
It would be horrible to imagine your own pet suffering like this, so check your yard for fire ants and give yourself peace-of-mind. While it's often difficult to identify an ant species with the naked eye, there are a few tell-tale signs of fire ants, which can usually be identified by observing their appearance, behaviours and habitat, in combination.
Fire ants are reddish-brown in colour and you'll always find varying sizes amongst the one colony – something which is uncommon to most other ant species. They usually display aggressive behaviour if disturbed, as they swarm quickly and attack in groups. Their nests often look like loose dirt on the ground or a mound that can range in size. The easiest way to distinguish a fire ant nest from that of a more common ant species is to look for holes. Fire ant nests have no visible entry or exit site. You can find fire ants in suburban backyards and on rural properties, in parks and bushland, under logs and rocks, in garden material and even in animal manure. Fire ants can easily be moved in soil, pot plants and mulch, so it's important to be vigilant about what comes in or goes out of your garden.
A state-wide government initiative has been implemented to raise awareness about fire ants in South-East Queensland and eradicate them from our eco-system. Helicopter surveillance is regularly conducted in fire ant hot spots to identify their presence with thermal imaging photography. Primary school students are also being educated about fire ants to arm them with knowledge about the potential dangers lurking in their own backyards. The school programs feature odour detecting dogs who are trained to sniff out fire ants and make learning fun and engaging for kids. You can arrange an educational visit for your child's school by speaking to school staff and suggesting they contact Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 and ask for 'Aka the fire ant tracker' show.
If you suspect you have fire ants on your property, don't touch them directly. Wear covered clothing and using a long stick, prod the area you suspect contains fire ants to see whether any ants surface and display the behaviours described. If you identify fire ants you should report them immediately to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23. You may be asked to send in a sample for scientific identification or an inspector can be arranged to check your property and discuss appropriate removal methods.
The great outdoors is there to be enjoyed. Let's keep it 'great' by checking for fire ants to ensure your yard is a safe haven for your family, because frankly the welfare of your pets and children is something worth getting fired up about.