Asia Minute: Australia’s Fire Ant Challenge

Dec 8, 2016

Credit Marufish / Flickr

People on every island across the state are familiar with invasive species. One of the most dangerous is the little fire ant, found in the biggest concentration on the windward side of the Big Island of Hawai‘i. And now a similar problem is plaguing a part of Australia. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Australia is facing an expensive and extensive battle against the red fire ant.

This is a different type than the “little fire ant” which is plaguing parts of Hawai‘i. Especially on the Big Island.

But there are some similarities in the challenges.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation obtained a government report about the red fire ant put together by an independent expert. The conclusions are alarming. Including the statement that the economic impact of fire ants in Australia could be worse than rabbits, cane toads and foxes combined.

The report suggests the federal government team up with states to spend more than a quarter of a billion dollars over the next decade to eliminate the fire ant.

There’s a tone of urgency in the findings which say there is “only a small window of opportunity left” to wipe out the pest.

One of the big concerns is agriculture.

The report says entire crops can be destroyed by the ants. Adding that a “super colony” of them can even take down small livestock like chickens and even lambs.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports agriculture ministers from around the country are expected to meet early next year to decide whether they will be able to join forces to eliminate the fire ant or whether they will need to live with the pest and manage the consequences.