Red imported fire ant (RIFA) (Solenopsis invicta) is one of the worst invasive species to reach Australia. 

Red imported fire ants can: 

  • impact our environment and many industries, including agriculture 
  • restrict everyday activities such as barbeques, picnics, and sporting events
  • inflict painful stings on people, pets, and livestock
  • cause extensive damage to ecological and agricultural systems.

Red imported fire ants are a category 1 restricted matter under the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement.

Detection in Australia

Red Imported Fire Ants were first detected in Australia in Queensland in February 2001.

Response programs


Since 2001, the National Fire Ant Eradication Program has been actively eradicating fire ants in areas of South East Queensland and surrounding regions.

The eradication treatment area wraps around the infestation, spanning from Moreton Bay in the north, west to the Lockyer Valley, and south to the Gold Coast near the NSW border.

As red imported fire ants are cleared from areas within the eradication treatment area, treatment will move inwards until all areas are treated and red imported fire ants are eradicated. See the Fire Ant Response Plan 2023–27 for more information.

Work is also under way to eradicate red imported fire ants in Kleinton and Oakey in the Toowoomba region. Both detections have been confirmed as being genetically linked with the South East Queensland incursion.

New South Wales

On 19 January 2024, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) confirmed the detection of red imported fire ants in Wardell, located 85 km south of the Queensland border.

This marks the second fire ant detection in northern NSW following one in late 2023 in South Murwillumbah.

NSW DPI is working with the National Fire Ant Eradication Program to contain the infestation.

Red imported fire ant treatment

All red imported fire ant nests have been destroyed using liquid insecticide. This method is outlined in the program’s 2023-2027 Response Plan. The plan aims to control, trace and eradicate infestations.

This approach includes a targeted effort to determine the extent of the infestation. It also includes undertaking genetic testing of the red imported fire ants and searching all properties within the control area.

Control area

NSW DPI has established a control area within a 5 kilometre radius from the infested sites in Wardell and South Murwillumbah. This means certain restrictions apply to the movement of high-risk material, such as:

  • mulch, woodchips and compost
  • sand, gravel, soil, hay and other baled products
  • agricultural equipment
  • earth moving equipment and dump trucks
  • bins.

Visit Red imported fire ants ( for more information.

Completed responses

Red imported fire ants have been eradicated from Australia on 7 different occasions, including twice in Gladstone (QLD), Port Botany (NSW) and the Port of Fremantle (WA).

The state combating the incursion leads the responses in most instances.

Western Australia

Fire ants were detected at Fremantle port in 2019. The WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) led the response.

This infestation was successfully eradicated, with the National Biosecurity Management Group declaring the state free of fire ants in October 2023.

Response activities included a 2-year surveillance and treatment program to demonstrate successful eradication of the pest. These activities were supported by businesses that use the port, including local governments and the wider community.

See more at Fire ants (


A single fire ant was detected and intercepted at an Australia Post parcel centre in the state’s south in January 2024. There was no incursion into the state, and Tasmania remains free from fire ants.

The National Fire Ant Eradication Program will continue working with Biosecurity Tasmania to ensure the state remains free from fire ants.

See more

How we coordinate a response to an outbreak.

Your obligations

If you live or work around affected areas in QLD or NSW, look out for this invasive ant. You must report any suspected sightings.

Report sightings

Report any unusual ants, even if you’re not sure.

Call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 to report signs of browsing ants.

For signs of exotic pests and diseases in imported goods, sea containers or parcels, call See. Secure. Report on 1800 798 636 or use our online form.

Follow the rules and movement restrictions

Imported goods must meet Australia’s biosecurity conditions. These may include offshore treatment. Check the rules at Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON).

Movement restrictions are mandated at infested sites. You must adhere to them. They ensure the ant is not moved out of infested areas or interstate.

See more about response activities and restrictions in each state:

About the pest

Fire ants are an exotic invasive ant and an environmental pest.

The ant is native to South America. It has spread to the United States, China, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and Australia.

What to look for

Fire ants are copper brown in colour, with a darker abdomen. They measure 2-6mm in length and are highly aggressive. A single fire ant nest can contain many different sized ants.

Fire ants can adapt to most climates and environments around the world. They invade both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Close up of a red imported fire ant
Photo courtesy of the National Fire Ant Eradication Program


See Fire ant identification video

How it spreads

Fire ants are highly mobile. They can fly up to 5km and travel over and underground. They can also raft on waterways after floods or rain.

Fire ants can hitchhike on goods and vehicles. They can move with shipping containers and cargo. They can also hide in soil, mulch, fertiliser and plant material.

Exotic invasive ants are included on: