Fire ants were first detected in Australia in 2001, according to the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry. Because they are an imported species from South America they are considered a serious social, economic and environmental threat. Landowners are required to notify authorities of the presence of fire ants under the Plant Protection Act of 1989.
One of the problems with fire ants is that their mounds are not easily identified. They can be 40 cms high or can look like a patch of disturbed soil. They are small, about six mns, and have a coppery-brown head and body with a darker abdomen. They are very aggressive, with an extremely painful sting. A fire ant sting can result in a burning, itching sensation that can last up to an hour. In rare cases they can cause blisters of pustules or even a fatal case of anaphylaxis.
Fire ants are also a direct threat to the environment and economy of Australia. They are voracious eaters of a variety of other insect and other small species, including spiders, lizards, frogs, birds and mammals. They threaten to displace or eliminate native Australian species.
Fire ants damage lawns, sporting fields, golf courses, and sensitive electrical equipment. They are a threat to young livestock, stinging around the eyes causing blindness or the mouth causing swelling and suffocation. They invade the food and water supplies of animals, cutting them off, causing starvation and death by thirst. Finally they feed on seeds and plants, severely damaging agriculture if left unchecked.
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