A NSW Government website

How do fire ants affect us?

Fire ants can cause serious social, economic and environmental harm.

People and animals

Fire ants are aggressive and have a severe, burning sting that is extremely painful.

Any animals that spend time outdoors are at risk of fire ant stings, particularly if they graze or like to dig. Fire ants tend to swarm the faces of pets and grazing animals, nose-first.

Infestations of fire ants restrict the use of backyards, parks, playgrounds, beaches and sports fields.

Fire ants can also cause damage to sensitive electrical equipment like meter boxes, traffic lights and air conditioners by chewing through the insulation, causing malfunction.

Environment and agriculture

Fire ants feed on insects, spiders, lizards, frogs, birds, and mammals. They can displace or kill off Australian plants and animals and change environments beyond repair.

Many agricultural and horticultural crops can be affected by fire ants increasing the cost of production and supply of goods and services. Fire ant nests can also damage equipment such as irrigation systems and machinery.

Livestock can be stung by fire ants. Stinging around the eyes, mouth, and nose can cause suffocation and blindness. They can also prevent animals from reaching food and water leading to starvation and dehydration.

Fire ant presence limits the ability to export goods to states or countries free of them.

About stings

When a nest is disturbed tens to hundreds of fire ants will swarm onto a person or animal within a few seconds and sting simultaneously.

Each ant delivers many stings causing the sensation that the body is on fire, and the painful burning sensation can last up to an hour.

Small pustules can form after being stung which can become itchy and infected.

If you're stung:

  • seek medical attention if you a prone to allergic reactions or experience symptoms of anaphylaxis
  • apply a cold compress or ice to the stings to relieve the swelling and pain
  • small blisters may form on your skin
  • leave the blisters intact and wash gently with soap and water.

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

Seen them? Contact us.

Use the online form for any suspicious sightings or call 1800 680 244.