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20 December 2001
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has received special funding of $1.1 million for a programme of targeted surveillance activities for Fire Ants.
Amelia Pascoe, MAF programme coordinator, says the Government funding will allow targeted surveillance at New Zealand's international ports of entry and surrounding land over the summer period as well as a public information campaign.
The aim of the surveillance is to confirm that ants at the known incursion site (Auckland International Airport) have been eradicated and to ensure no colonies have established at other sites. Targeted areas will include sites where containers are unpacked. The programme will include visual surveillance, pit fall traps and laying baited ground traps.
Once established Fire Ants are highly invasive and have the potential to be a serious pest capable of causing widespread harm to the environment, public health, urban areas and primary production at a cost of millions of dollars.
"Since the detection and destruction of a single nest of Fire Ants at Auckland International Airport in February there have been no further finds. However, we know from our Australian counterparts who are spending more than A$120 million in an attempt to eradicate Fire Ants in Queensland, that we need to be as vigilant as possible.
It is extremely difficult for someone to distinguish Fire Ants from a New Zealand ant simply by looking at them. A telltale sign of an outdoors infestation by Fire Ants is the appearance of small mounds after wet weather.
Fire Ants are a serious pest known for their aggressive behaviour when disturbed. They will defend their nest by swarming around it and unlike any other ant in New Zealand they can give a painful sting which will cause intense itching followed by the formation of distinct pustules (or blisters). Anyone who suspects they have been stung by Fire Ants and believe they are having an allergic reaction should seek medical advice.
For further information contact:
Amelia Pascoe, MAF Programme Co-ordinator on (04) 470 2785 or (021) 770 310 or Stephen Olsen, MAF Communications Adviser on (04) 470 2753 or (025) 977 028
More information is available on the MAF website at www.biosecurity.govt.nz