US fire ants found at Brisbane airport

A fire ant crawls up a new blade of grass Source: AAP

A population of fire ants from the US has been found by a member of the public at Brisbane Airport.

A population of fire ants from the southern United States has been found at Brisbane airport.

The ants were found in a carpark last September but details were released only on Thursday.

National fire ant eradication director Sarah Corcoran says genetic testing indicates the US population was new to Australia and most likely came from Florida.

She says smaller nests were found near the original mound but the problem seems to have been caught early.

Biosecurity officers were sent to destroy the nests and a surveillance program, including detection dogs, is under way.

Queensland Agriculture Minister Leanne Donaldson says the movement of high-risk materials will be restricted in surrounding suburbs.

"More than $910,000 has been allocated to contain and eradicate the new incursion of fire ants over a two-year period," she said.

There have been five fire ant detections in Queensland over the last 15 years.

Two have since been eradicated.

Ms Corcoran says most of the country's fire ants have come from the US but they are also a risk in goods from China, South America and Taiwan.

She says the pests, which inflict painful bites and invade food and water sources, could have a terrible social and economic impact.

"Once they get established they will take over the Australian landscape," she said.

"The great thing about Australia is we realise these are nasty pests."

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says an out-of-control fire ant population would cost the country an estimated $8.5 billion over 70 years.

Source AAP

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