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Fire Ants The Latest Sign Of A Biosecurity Crisis

Forest and Bird would like to see the government take biosecurity seriously, following the finding of fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, in Auckland.

Forest and Bird Biosecurity Awareness Officer, Karli Thomas, said that it is time for MAF to stop downplaying the risk of alien invaders. “Fire ants are the world’s worst ant pest and one of the worst insect pests. If they become established in New Zealand it will be nothing short of a national disaster”.

Ms Thomas said that fire ants have serious impacts for the environment, public safety, agriculture, horticulture, tourism and trade. “In the United States immediate measures are put in place when a fire ant infestation is discovered, including a toll free hotline, fliers to local residents and comprehensive quarantine systems”.

“Auckland needs to be put on high alert. MAF clearly needs public help to report any other ant infestations and to determine whether the ant has spread” Ms Thomas said. “Some of the ants found in the first nest were winged, which is very worrying”.

Ms Thomas said that MAF should have a full-scale eradication plan ready in case any further nests are found. “If fire ants have spread, we will only have a small window of opportunity to eradicate them. MAF should be prepared to immediately take whatever action is necessary.”

Ms Thomas said that the current biosecurity response system is not adequate to deal with the volume of pests coming into the country. “This case is a prime example of why we need dedicated funding to deal with new pest incursions”.

For further information on the fire ant response in California, see the ‘Report to the Legislature’ http://www.fireant.ca.gov/html/english/facts/brochures.html

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