Fire Ants Ride the Torrent

Jan 20, 2011 Comments Off on Fire Ants Ride the Torrent

Dan Nancarrow
January 19, 2011
Fire ants are among pests that may be spread by last week’s flooding. Photo: Reuters

Fire ants and other invasive species could spread to new areas of Brisbane in the wake of last week’s flood devastation.

Experts have warned the displacement of many animals during the flood could create new ecosystems around urban areas affected by inundation.

Paul De Barro, the senior principal research leader for CSIRO’s invasive species team, said the waters would have moved pests such as weeds and soil pathogens to new areas.
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In the worst case scenario, fire ants could spread to areas of the city previously untouched by the pest.

“When fire ants are confronted by large amounts of water they form a sort of a raft and they float downstream,” he said.

“So it’s conceivable fire ants could be spread out of areas where they were – if those areas were inundated – to new areas.”

However, Biosecurity Queensland Control Centre acting director Craig Jennings said although the rafting behaviour was well documented, it was unlikely the floods would have spread.

“The flood waters in the infested areas of southeast Queensland tend to rise quickly and be turbulent which would minimise rafting and survival of fire ant colonies,” he said.

“The likelihood of movement with the recent flooding is minimal in the western infested areas as the flood waters would have risen quickly and been fast flowing.

“In the eastern infested area, all known fire ant infestation had been destroyed. For undetected colonies if there was rafting in these areas it most likely would have resulted only in localised movement.”

Dr De Barro said residents in areas affected by flooding could expect to see new plants and weeds growing in their gardens.

Soil pathogens could also prevent certain plants growing which would have flourished before inundation.

“Some of those [plants] might actually be quite good, you might score a new flowering plant, but you also might score weeds and that might become a problem for you as a householder,” Dr De Barro said.

“It might take several years before their effect becomes apparent.”

In the short term residents may also see an influx of rodents and snakes around flood debris.

But these animals should return to their natural habitats soon after flood waters subside and debris is cleared.

“That’s why it’s really important to clean up that debris so it doesn’t become a breeding ground for those sort of nuisance types of pests which create their own ecosystem and other animals respond,” Dr De Barro said.

As the wet season continues mosquitos will also continue to be a problem.

Brisbane City Council today urged residents to empty any containers holding water in their backyards following the recent flooding.

Lord Mayor Campbell Newman said the council would use aerial spraying to control mosquitos if necessary but called on residents to help stop the breeding cycle.

“By emptying all containers, you’ll be helping to keep the number of mosquitoes down,” he said.

The floods could also expose homes around the state to termites with Queensland pest management company Termicide warning home owners that barriers against the pest could have been destroyed by the waters.

*Story Provided by the Sydney Morning Herald – Full Story

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