Australia has become home to two species of fire ants – the tropical fire ant, Solenopsis germinate, and the South American fire ant Solenopsis invicta. A far more serious pest than their rather harmless counterpart the common house ant they are believed to be one of the greatest ecological threats to Australia since the introduction of the rabbit and potentially more damaging than the cane toad. Anybody finding these ants should not touch them but rather contact the Authorities such as the Queensland Department of Primary Industries as they have been declared a notifiable pest under the Plant Protection Act of 1989.
Fire ants look very similar to ordinary house or garden ants. They are dark reddish -brown in colour on the head and body but have a darker abdomen. They are distinguishable by the fact that they come in a variety of sizes from two to six millimetres within one nest and have very aggressive behaviour.
Fire ants received their name from the fiery sting they inflict. If a nest, which may contain up to 200,000 ants, is disturbed the ants will swarm and sting their victim repeatedly releasing a venom which feels like fire. Once stung small blisters or pustules will appear which once they stop burning may stay itchy for up to a week. It is important to keep the pustules intact and resist the urge to scratch as this may cause infection. In extreme circumstances an allergic reaction to the sting may result in anaphylaxis and hospitalisation.