Dogs deployed to sniff out invasive ant

Red imported fire ant. Photo: ocvector.org
Red imported fire ant. Photo: ocvector.org

TWO specially trained dogs have been called in to sniff out the invasive fire ant found in Fremantle Port this week.

Black labradors Willow and Cola are specially trained odour detector dogs who have nine years of collective experience in detecting red imported fire ant.

They have been loaned from the Queensland Government to help WA authorities’ surveillance efforts.

The red imported fire ant surveillance team.

The dogs have a 95 per cent success rate in identifying fire ants, often long before they become visible to the human eye.

Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said Willow and Cola have been working with┬áthe Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s biosecurity response.

“(Willow and Cola) are playing a crucial role in surveillance efforts, particularly detecting ants that could be underground and not visible to the naked eye,” she said.

“DPIRD has moved quickly to prevent this aggressive ant, known for its fiery sting, its capacity to damage crops and ability to establish ‘super colonies’, from becoming established in WA.

“We thank the Queensland Government for providing Willow, Cola and their handler, and for sharing knowledge and experience in dealing with red imported fire ants.”

The red imported fire ant.

Their efforts will support the local biosecurity response to prevent this invasive pest from South America from becoming established in WA.

The red fire ant could threaten the environment, agriculture, the economy and human health in WA.

A Quarantine Area Notice is now in place in parts of Fremantle, restricting a range of host materials from potentially spreading the pest to other locations.

Ms MacTiernan said the Fremantle community’s support was critical.

“We ask residents and businesses to continue to be vigilant and to report any sightings of unfamiliar ants to the Pest and Disease Information Service or use the MyPestGuide app,” she said.

“We also ask residents and businesses to be mindful of movement restrictions to prevent the possible spread of the pest, which includes conditions on host material, like soil, potted plants, mulch, hay, manure and turf being moved outside the quarantine area.”

The quarantine area.

For more details about the movement restrictions, visit http://www.agric.wa.gov.au.

Suspected ant sightings should be reported to the department using its MyPestGuideTM Reporter app or online.

Alternatively, contact the Pest and Disease Information Service on (08) 9368 3080 or padis@dpird.wa.gov.au