Red imported fire ants

(Solenopsis invicta)

NSW DPI, the National Fire Ant Eradication Program and Tweed Shire Council are working together in response to a detection of fire ants in Murwillumbah.

View the Biosecurity (Fire Ant) Emergency Order.

Print the plain English guide to the Order (PDF, 669.09 KB), or read in the accordion below.

South Murwillumbah: what can I do?

Movement of a fire ant carrier is permitted into and within the 5km control area.

Movement of a fire ant carrier out of the 5km fire ant movement control area is only permitted when following the requirements as specified by the Emergency Order (refer to Part 2 in the Order).

Treat or clean

  • Follow the treatment requirements specified for organic mulch, soil, compost and manure; soil samples; growing media; hay; potted plants; turf; and mining or quarrying materials.
  • Follow the cleaning requirements for agricultural equipment and earth moving equipment; and dump trucks and bins.

Complete the record of movement declaration form

  • For organic material, mining and quarrying material, and dirty machinery, complete the record of movement declaration form
  • Retain these details for 4 years.
  • For movement of clean or new agricultural machinery or earth moving equipment, a record of movement declaration form is not required to be completed.
  • Additionally, a record of movement declaration form is not required for the movement of grass, vegetation or clippings as discussed below.

Green bin/organic waste collection by council

  • No action is required for grass, vegetation and clippings which are collected by council as part of the council’s waste management services.
  • Household residents within the 5km zone are permitted to take their grass, vegetation and clippings direct to the Tweed Shire Council waste facility, however need to ensure that they are covered to prevent fire ants crawling into or landing on it.

Other movements

Movements out of the 5km Fire Ant Movement Control Area contrary to the Emergency Order may be authorised by a permit under certain conditions. A permit process is in place, and the granting of permits will be considered on a case by case basis. To discuss further contact the hotline on 1800 680 244.

Communities in the border regions of Northern NSW should be on the lookout for fire ants and their nests and contact NSW DPI if suspected fire ants are found.

Movements from infested area of Queensland in to NSW

People moving fire ant carriers from the Queensland fire ant infested area must follow treatment requirements as specified in the Emergency Order, and obtain the relevant certificate accepted for the different carriers to be brought into NSW.

Treat or clean

  • Follow the treatment or cleaning requirements on the type of material or machinery being moved.


  • Produce the approved biosecurity certificate that accompanied the fire ant carrier for inspection when requested by an authorised officer and retain this certificate for 4 years.
  • For detailed requirements, visit see moving material from Queensland

Complete the record of movement declaration form

Further detail on the moving material from Queensland page.

Fact sheets and more information

This map shows the fire ant infested areas of South East Queensland and Northern NSW. .

(Solenopsis invicta)

Red imported fire ants (fire ants) are invasive exotic ants that cause serious social, economic, and environmental harm. They are aggressive and have a severe, burning sting. Fire ants are not known to occur in New South Wales, but currently infest a large area of South East Queensland with nests found very close to the border.

How do fire ants affect us?

  • Large numbers of ants will swarm onto a person or animal stinging over and over, causing the sensation of being on fire.
  • Stings can become infected and in rare cases lead to fatal allergic reactions.
  • Infestations restrict the use of backyards, parks, playgrounds, beaches and sports fields and damage electrical, irrigation and agricultural equipment
  • Fire ants feed on seeds, insects, spiders, lizards, frogs, birds and mammals. They can displace or kill off native plants and animals and change whole ecosystems beyond repair.
  • Their presence limits the ability to export goods to states or countries free of red imported fire ants.

Image showing bite

Left: Stings from fire ants are very painful and form pustules. Right: Fire ant size comparison. Photos sourced from Queensland DAFF

Fire ants in South East Queensland

Fire ants were first discovered at the Port of Brisbane in 2001 and currently infest around 600,000 ha in South East Queensland. The interactive fire ants map shows sites  that have had fire ants in the last 12 months. They have been found west to Kleintonand the Lockyer Valley and north to Deception Bay.

NSW partners with and contributes funding to the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program. This program aims to eradicate fire ants from South East Queensland by 2032 and has been in place since 2017. Modelling shows that without it, fire ants would have spread west to Longreach, north to Bowen and south to Canberra by now.

The program provides a website for residents and tenants, business and industry and school and sports groups on the control treatments for fire ants, the dangers they present, and how to look for them and stop their spread.

Red imported fire ant image

Seen them?

Fire ant collection. Man poking ant nest with stick at a safe distance.

Stand well back and gently prod the edge of the nest with a stick. Image courtesy of the National Fire Ant Eradication Program.

Collect and photograph some dead ants

To do this safely you need latex gloves, a can of household insect spray, a long stick and some tissues. Be aware that fire ants will attack and sting if disturbed (fire ant first aid):

  • put the latex gloves on, stand well back and gently prod the edge of the nest with the stick
  • ants will run up the stick towards you
  • quickly spray the ants on the stick with the insect spray and move away from the nest
  • gently wipe the sprayed ants onto a tissue
  • make sure they are dead - spray again if they are still moving
  • photograph the dead ants on the tissue
  • put the dead ants and tissue into a small container or plastic bag, and submit the photos with the online form or email them to
  • don't spray the rest of the nest with insect spray - this won't kill the whole nest and will cause the ants to move and spread.

Fire ant collection by Weed resource team

Fire ant collection, video has no audio. NSW DPI © State of New South Wales

What to look for


  • Mounds or flattish patches of soil with no obvious entrance holes
  • Can be up to 40 cm high
  • More likely to be seen in sunny open areas such as lawns, school yards, parks, roadsides and golf courses
  • Occasionally found in rotten logs, along pavers and building walls.

Fire ant nest

Fire ant nest. NSW DPI © State of New South Wales


  • 2–6 mm long, found in a variety of sizes within one nest
  • Dark reddish-brown in colour
  • Darker brown-black abdomen
  • Waist section has two segments
  • Aggressive behaviour - hundreds of ants will come out of a nest if disturbed, trying to sting over and over.

Various sizes of fire ants

Fire ants are 2 - 6 mm long with a range of sizes in one nest. Image courtesy of the National Fire Ant Eradication Program.

Hundreds of ants will come out of a nest if disturbed, this video has no audio. NSW DPI © State of New South Wales.

Red imported    fire ant image

Image showing colour and size of fire ant. Image courtesy of Peter Green.

How do fire ants spread?

  • Fire ants can fly up to 2 km, form rafts to float on water, and travel over or under the ground.
  • They can be moved long distances in carrier materials such as hay, turf, organic mulch and manure, soil, potted plants and agricultural equipment and machinery.

Where are we likely to find fire ants in NSW?

Fire ants are most likely to be found in parts of NSW along the border with South East Queensland including the Tweed, Kyogle and Tenterfield local government areas.

Their ability to be moved in carrier materials such as hay, straw, turf, mulch, soil, sand, gravel, potted plants and on agricultural and earthmoving equipment and machinery means fire ants could be found anywhere in NSW. Check for fire ants on these carrier materials if they have come into NSW from South East Queensland.

They could also be found close to ports if they enter NSW in shipping containers or cargo. Fire ants can adapt and survive in most climates and environments around the world. Check open areas such as lawns and pastures, roadsides and cropped land. Look under and next to objects on the ground like timber, logs, rocks, pavers or bricks.

What should I do if I suspect fire ants?

Don’t touch the ants or their nest with any part of your body as there is a high chance of being severely stung. Don’t disturb or treat the infestation yourself as this can cause the ants to move and spread, or swarm and sting.

If it’s safe to do so taking photos will help with identification. If you can only see a nest, gently poke the edge of the nest with a long stick to encourage the ants to come out, making sure you don’t get too close.

Keep your camera still and allow ants to walk past the lens. Moving the camera too much makes the image blurry. Use the zoom on your camera to get a close-up image while keeping a safe distance. Put an object like a coin or a key near the ants as a size comparison.

Attach the photos in the online form or call 1800 680 244 for assistance

What will happen if fire ants are found on my property in NSW?

  • DPI will work with the National Fire Ants Eradication Program to search the surrounding areas, treat the ants and stop their spread, at no cost to the owners or occupiers.
  • A temporary requirement to only move certain materials and items off the property under permitted conditions could be put in place while the ants are controlled.
  • The ants would be treated and monitored until it was clear they had been eradicated.

What should I do if I get stung?

The following guidance is general information and if in doubt, seek medical advice.

If you are stung by fire ants, small blisters may form on your skin. Leave the blisters intact, wash with soap and water and apply a cold compress or ice to relieve the swelling and pain.

Stings are rarely life threatening. People prone to allergic reactions could experience severe symptoms and should seek immediate medical attention.

Please check out information on moving material from Queensland.