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Manage Fire Ants with Greenhouses & Shadehouse

Published: June 11, 2024 by Kim Elverding | Updated: June 11, 2024

The threat of fire ants in horticulture is not to be taken lightly. These tiny invaders endanger the health of your plants and can significantly impact your business’s bottom line. In this article, we explore the risks of fire ants, strategies to prevent their spread, and how greenhouse structures can help you stay compliant with regulations.

About Fire Ants in Australia

Australia is home to many ant species, but only one is notably invasive: the Solenopsis invicta, commonly known as the fire ant. First detected in Brisbane in February 2001, these ants are believed to have arrived via shipping containers from the United States. Australia’s ideal climate, landscape, and lack of natural predators make it a perfect home for these pests. Although currently concentrated in Southeast Queensland, without ongoing efforts to curb their spread, they could extend well beyond Canberra.

The Threat of Fire Ants to Horticulture

If left unchecked, the damage inflicted by fire ants in Australia could surpass the combined impact of feral cats, wild dogs, foxes, camels, rabbits, and cane toads. The direct damage can be severe for commercial nurseries, highlighting the need for immediate action. Fire ants attack young plants and seeds, causing damage that can slow crop growth or kill seedlings. Infestations can also disrupt daily operations and pose risks to staff.

How Fire Ants Spread

Fire ants are notoriously difficult to contain due to their diverse methods of spread. They can move over or underground, travel through the air, and even float on water. Human activities further facilitate their distribution through the transport of organic material, plant pots, and contaminated machinery. The key to their colony’s relocation lies with the queen. While she primarily flies short distances, wind, humans, or other animals can inadvertently transport her and the colony to new locations.

Stop the Spread

The National Fire Ant Eradication Program (NFAEP) is dedicated to stopping the spread of these invasive ants. Their website provides comprehensive information on their efforts and actionable steps you can take. Key measures include:

  • Regular inspections
  • Biosecurity zones
  • Movement restrictions
  • Treatment programs
  • Coverage of organic materials

Greenhouses to Stop the Spread

According to the Biosecurity Regulation 2016, growers must ensure that their carriers are covered to prevent fire ant infestation. Essentially, to protect your crops from fire ants you need to cover them.
At EnviroTec, we prioritise staying up to date with regulations to provide the best advice for your business and crops. After consulting with the NFAEP, we found that:

  • A roof is sufficient for compliance.
  • Adding walls and ends significantly enhances protection.
  • Our Hailguard or Fruitfly nets (providing approximately 10-12% shade) are effective.

Would you like to discuss using greenhouses and shadehouses to safeguard your crops? Contact us today for personalised advice.