Fire ants are native to the South American countries of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. They were first detected in Brisbane, Queensland on 22 February 2001 and are believed to have entered the country in shipping containers.

In late November 2023, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) confirmed the discovery of a number of fire ant nests 13 kilometres south of the Queensland border, in north eastern NSW.

This detection triggered the National Fire Ant Eradication Program response (part of a $600 million eradication plan developed by the Australian governments – the world’s largest ever program to eradicate them) as the ants had only previously been identified in Queensland prior to this time.

So, what are fire ants, and what to look for on your property in case of an infestation

What makes fire ants so special and indeed highly mobile is that they are smart, adaptive and can survive in a range of climates and conditions. They can be moved in organic material, fly long distances and even raft on water.

They can, however, by identified by a few distinguishing features. They are:

  • copper brown in colour with a darker abdomen
  • quite small at 2 – 6 mm in length
  • found in a variety of sizes within the one nest
Fire ants are quite small at 2 – 6 mm. Source: National Fire Ant Eradication Program

Fire ant nests can appear as dome-shaped mounds or be flat and look like a small patch of disturbed soil, with no obvious entry or exit holes. Instead, the ants enter and leave the mound via underground tunnels which radiate outwards from the nest, sometimes by up to 30 meters.

Fire ant nests are often found in open areas such as lawns and pastures and along roadsides and unused cropland. They can also be found next to or under other objects on the ground, such as timber, logs, rocks, pavers or bricks.

Typical fire ant nests. Source: National Fire Ant Eradication Program

On rural properties it is best to look around your dams and irrigation lines, edges of cultivated land, along fence lines, and within your cropland or piles of organic matter.

What to do if you find fire ants

Fire ants should be managed like any other pest such as spiders, cockroaches or termites. If you find fire ants on your property or someone else’s, at a workplace or on public land, you should report them within 24 hours of sighting by calling 13 25 23.

There is also a simple online form you can complete on the National Fire Ant Eradication Program website. Be prepared to answer a number of questions and to provide photos and videos to help with identification. The faster you report, the less chance there is of fire ants becoming a problem and spreading.

There are several treatment methods and products available to effectively treat fire ants. They include self-treating using a purchased bait; hiring a licensed pest manager to treat on your behalf, or waiting for treatment by the National Fire Ant Eradication Program, which, depending on the location and severity of the infestation, can be advised at the time of filing a sighting report. If you decide to self-treat fire ants on your property, you still need to report fire ants.

For more information, visit the National Fire Ants Eradication Program website at, or call 13 25 23.