Fire ants on the march in Redlands

THE state government has launched an aerial blitz on Mount Cotton, Sheldon and Alexandra Hills in a bid to halt the eastward march of fire ants.

Although seven infestations of the pest were detected in the three suburbs over the past financial year, only Sheldon and Mount Cotton were considered "high-risk" suburbs by BioSecurity Queensland.

Coastal suburbs of Redland Bay, Victoria Point, Alexandra Hills and Thornlands also recorded sightings of fire ants, but were considered "low risk" of further contamination, along with Capalaba.

Biosecurity Queensland has no records of infestations of the 4mm coppery-brown ant with a dark abdomen in Cleveland, Ormiston, Wellington Point, Birkdale or Thorneside.

In a bid to stop the eastward spread of the pest, residents in the two high-risk Redland suburbs have been banned from moving soil, manure, hay, potting mix, sleepers, logs mulch, bark, pot plants, turf, gravel or poultry litter from their properties.

Mount Cotton and Sheldon residents cannot take the material to Redland City tips at Redland Bay or at Birkdale. Neither tip is allowed to take fire-ant material.

Residents can, however, call a fire ant inspector for approval to move the material on 132 523.

Businesses moving restricted goods within the two suburbs need an approved risk management plan from Biosecurity Queensland.

It is believed the fire ants' march east was through suburbs including Daisy Hill, Shailer Park, Tanah Merah and Loganholme.

The latest crackdown in Redland City involves two helicopters, equipped with heat sensor cameras, conducting daily surveys to detect the ants' underground nests.

Biosecurity Queensland Control Centre director Neil O'Brien said in good weather and in the cooler months, each camera photographed up to 750ha a day from heights of 152m (500 feet).

"We will be concentrating on flying in a 5km strip around the outer edge of the known infested areas," he said.

"When our surveillance identifies a suspect nest, we send in a ground team for further investigation and to destroy any confirmed nests."

He asked property owners in the flight zone to allow inspectors on to their properties in the event of a nest being found.

Once detected, the nests are injected with a bait, which neuters the queen ant.

The helicopters have been conducting daily aerial surveys in the area for the past two months and will continue until the end of July. Flight schedules will be updated at www.daff.qld.gov.au/fireants or on Biosecurity Queensland's Facebook page.

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