With populations of the deadly red imported fire ant threatening to spread across Australia, leading vegetable industry body AUSVEG is warning Australians to make sure they don’t accidentally bring some very unwelcome guests with them on holiday this year.
An independent review of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program has found that if not contained, an infestation of red imported fire ants could affect at least 20 sectors of the economy, including horticulture, and cost Australia $1.6 billion.
“In large numbers, red imported fire ants can do serious damage to crops, and the environmental and community impacts of a wide-spread infestation would be extreme,” said AUSVEG National Manager – Science and Extension Dr Jessica Lye.
“With eradication efforts under way to remove red imported fire ants from south-east Queensland, it’s vital that these pests don’t travel further abroad and put all of Australia at risk.”
“If you’re travelling through areas that are known to be dealing with red imported fire ants, it’s a good idea to check your shoes, clothes and tyres in case you’re carrying any ants or infested soil. This can help prevent you accidentally carrying them to different regions.”
AUSVEG is the national body representing Australia’s vegetable and potato growers.
The vegetable industry is also asking Australians to remember not to inadvertently spread other problem plant pests, such as Queensland fruit fly, which can hitch a ride across Australia in fresh fruit or vegetables.
“Australia enjoys a range of natural biosecurity protections, including an ocean border, but it’s all too easy to forget that we need to prevent the spread of plant pests and diseases within the country as well,” said Dr Lye.
“Mechanical transmission of pests and diseases can be a real threat to our industry, which is why if you’re travelling through primary production regions, it’s always a good idea to make sure that you’re not carrying any unwanted guests along for the ride.” 

Shaun Lindhe, AUSVEG National Manager – Communications
Phone: (03) 9882 0277, Mobile: 0405 977 789, Email: shaun.lindhe@ausveg.com.au