As heavy rain and cyclones inundate parts of Australia, red imported fire ants, an invasive species that can kill people and livestock, have been filmed creating rafts to travel across flood waters in southeast Queensland.
A farmer from the Gold Coast in Queensland captured video footage showing the fire ants forming large rafts and floating across water and shared it with the Invasive Species Council (ISC), an organization dedicated to protecting Australia from damaging invasive species.
The video has raised concern that the floods could allow the fire ants, which are one of the world’s worst invasive species, to travel to new places and spread across Australia.
In fact, modeling done by the ISC shows that the fire ants may spread to “every corner of Australia” if the outbreak in Queensland is not stopped.
Red imported fire ants pose a serious threat to the environment and agriculture by eating plants and animals.
Their poisonous stings can even kill humans.
While fire ants have been spotted rafting before in Australia, this was the first instance where such a distinct example has been captured on video, Reece Pianta, the Advocacy Manager at ISC, told Almost.
“This behavior shows that fire ant densities are growing,” he said, adding that it was important to prevent the colonies from multiplying.
The current outbreak was detected in November 2023, when six nests were found in New South Wales state, south of Queensland, sparking concern they had spread beyond Queensland.
Pianta said that the destruction caused by fire ants would cost $2 billion Australian dollars (US$1.3 billion) per year on Australia’s economy.
The Australian government has allocated $593 million Australian dollars to eradication efforts from 2023 to 2027, but experts say that more is needed.
Pianta called on the public to help report on suspected fire ant sightings to help prevent them from spreading.