Nature conservation

Threatened species

Importation of Red Imported Fire Ants Solenopsis invicta Buren 1972 - profile

Scientific name: Importation of Red Imported Fire Ants Solenopsis invicta Buren 1972
Conservation status in NSW: Key Threatening Process
Commonwealth status: Key Threatening Process
Gazetted date: 23 Aug 2002
Profile last updated: 21 Sep 2021


Importation of Red Imported Fire Ants Solenopsis invicta Buren 1972 into NSW was listed as a KEY THREATENING PROCESS on Schedule 3 of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 [23 August 2002].

The Red Imported Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta, is a small colonial ant that is a native of southern Brazil. They damage plants by eating fruit, seeds, tunnelling into stems and girdling seedlings. They also prey heavily on ground invertebrates and attack any slow moving vertebrates such as bird nestlings.  Fire ants are listed among the worlds 100 worst invaders by the Invasive Species Specialist Group of the IUCN (ISSG 2994).

Preliminary studies on the impact of fire ants on biodiversity in Brisbane have found that bushland with fire ant colonies present have greatly reduced numbers of native cockroaches and terrestrial reptiles. Frogs and ground nesting birds are also affected (Natrass & Vanderwoude 2001). There is the potential for fire ants to impact on ecological communities by affecting pollination and seed dispersal.

Species and populations in NSW that may become threatened by the presence of fire ants include ants such as Rhytidoponera spp., Pheidole spp., Paratrechina spp., Eastern Sedgefrog, Eastern Grass Skink, and a burrowing skink (Natrass & Vanderwoude 2001). A range of other ground-dwelling invertebrates and vertebrates would be affected in NSW.

Climatic modelling of the potential habitat for fire ants across Australia shows that they could occupy most of the coastal belt and the more mesic inland areas (Sutherst 2001). This includes the eastern half of NSW except for alpine areas. Workers forage during the warmer months of the year when temperatures are between 22oC and 36oC. NSW Department of Primary Industries has declared the Red Imported Fire Ant a notifiable pest under the Plant Diseases Act 1924.  This means that there is a legal obligation to report suspected red fire ant infestations to the Department as soon as possible.

The reduction in the biodiversity of Australian native fauna and flora due to the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta (fire ant) is listed as a key threatening process under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.  A national threat abatement plan is being prepared by the Department of Environment and Heritage.


Recovery strategies

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