Tradies and renovators face nasty sting if found ignoring Fire Ant protocols

Renovators and tradies are urged to brush up on their Fire Ant compliance protocols to stop the infesting insects from spreading.

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
5 Min Read

Home renovators and construction workers in South East Queensland are urged to brush up on their Fire Ant compliance protocols to stop the infesting insects from spreading.

The South American super pests were first found in Brisbane in 2001 and have since spread south to the NSW border, risking damage to Australia’s native environment, outdoor lifestyle, and the agriculture and tourism industries.

A 2021 report for Biosecurity Queensland found the Red Imported Fire Ant (Rifa) could slash the state’s agricultural output by up to 40 per cent if allowed to spread.

While a 2016 independent review of past eradication programs warned Rifa had the potential to “surpass the combined effects of many of the pests we currently regard as Australia’s worst invasive animals”, including rabbits, cane toads, foxes, camels, wild dogs and feral cats.

In the 22 years since the foreign invaders reared ashore, the Australian Government has committed $778.4 million to eradicate them, including $411.4 million under the current Fire Ant Response Plan.

A $2bn eradication response is likely required overall. However, this pails in comparison to the estimated $2bn Biosecurity Queensland estimates the species will cost the Australian economy should their spread not be contained.

Fire ant ignorance could give nasty sting

And now, The National Fire Ant Eradication Program has warned Build-it that tradies and construction workers found ignoring biosecurity rules could face a nasty sting – both from a fire ant and a government fine.

“Fire ant biosecurity zones are in place to prevent the human-assisted movement of fire ants across Queensland and beyond. The zones apply to anyone who works with organic materials that can carry fire ants sourced from inside the zones,” a spokesperson from the National Fire Ant Eradication Program told Build-it.

“Individuals and businesses in Queensland dealing with soil, hay, mulch, manure, quarry products, turf, and potted plants are legally obligated to check the fire ant biosecurity zones before moving these materials and follow fire ant-safe practices to avoid spreading the pest.”

Fire ant advice

A fire ant compliance advice tool is available online to remind workers of the movement requirements for materials potentially harvesting the pest. An interactive map of the biosecurity zones can be found here.

Workers must ensure organic materials are processed, stored, treated and disposed of safely to avoid accidentally helping the ants hitch-hike to new locations.

However, it’s not just tradies and construction workers who must remain vigilant, with residents help needed to stop the spread too, especially if they plan to undertake some outdoor DIY or plant gifting during the holidays.

“From gifting pot plants to undertaking a backyard revamp or home renovation—if you’re working with, receiving or storing organic materials, they need to be correctly managed,” a spokesperson from the National Fire Ant Eradication Program told Build-it.

“Don’t spread fire ants—always make sure you use fire ant-safe practices before moving organic materials that can carry fire ants.”

“Failing to fire ant-safe practices can lead to financial penalties and legal repercussions.”

The copper-brown-coloured pests feature a darker abdomen and are between 2 and 6 mm in length. Nests appear as mounds or patches of loose soil and don’t show any obvious entry or exit holes.

Their potentially deadly sting is similar to that of a bull ant. However, once stung, released pheromones cause the remaining ants to sting on mass, often leaving victims overrun.

This can lead to allergic reactions such as localised burning sensations or even asphyxiation and death.

Fire ant sightings should be reported to the National Fire Ant Eradication Program within 24 hours, either online at or by calling 13 25 23.

You can report a suspected illegal movement of fire ant carriers by visiting

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.