A new photo has revealed how NSW is under threat from a swarm of invasive fire ants after the pest was discovered on the north coast.
A nest was found at Wardell, south of Ballina on January 19, after Queensland authorities gave up a 20-year fight to contain the ants in 2023.
Since November, the destructive pests have spread more than 100km south and continues to creep further into the state.
A gardener accidentally discovered the fire ants while working and was bitten after disturbing the nest, suffering “blistering” pain.
Incident response teams from the National Fire Ant Eradication Program and NSW DPI teams rushed to Wardell to gather information and destroy the next with liquid insecticide.
NSW DPI are investigating where the ants came from and how long they have been in Wardell.
Residents in South Murwillumbah, 13km south of the Queensland border, were placed under an emergency biosecurity order after five nests were found in late November.
The community was placed on high alert but the ants were eradicated.
Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has blamed Labor for being “too slow to act” on its red imported fire ant response program.
He said the latest infestation is another sign Labor has “lost control” of eradicating the pest and the latest discovery should trigger an urgent review of funding.
“The whole country has been put at risk of fire ants because Labor was too slow to act,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Ballina is one of the most popular tourism areas in the country – it’s no small issue that this slice of paradise risks having its tourism title destroyed by fire ants if Labor doesn’t get on top of this.
Mr Littleproud said the funding was urgently needed after fire ants were spotted floating in floodwaters around the Gold Coast.
The pests have been seen forming “floating rafts” to escape floodwaters in the state, sparking warnings they could spread even further south.
“The Invasive Species Council warned red imported fire ants were at risk of spreading beyond current containment zones and that parks, school playgrounds and beaches have been closing over summer due to fire ants,” Mr Littleproud said.
“The Commonwealth should have been showing leadership on this issue but continued to drag the chain. Agriculture Minister Murray Watt is nowhere to be seen on this.
“Fire ants could also devastate wildlife and cut agricultural output by up to 40 per cent.”
Fire ants are less than a centimetre long and reddish-brown in colour. They become aggressive when disturbed and sting multiple times.