Eagleby ant invasion falls on deaf ears

Why aren’t we knocking off the fire ants?

My mother would see an ant in the house and burst into gestapo mode with a bucket of oily paste she blotted into each corner of the skirting boards.

We were very young, so through her camouflage she’d look each of us in the eye with strict instructions not to touch it or eat it.

It would have been like digging into an odourless tub of Vicks. Yuck.

Outside, my father would watch a line of ants march up a brick wall near a drainpipe in the backyard, providing all who’d listen a detailed forecast of the coming week’s weather.

“It’ll rain soon,” he’d say.

At school, the green ones would bite. We’d sit as a collective to eat our lunch, flicking their little fat butts as far as we could.

The worst I can recall were the bull ants. They were so big you’d need a red flag and a Spanish cape to fight them off before they’d latch on to the first piece of bare skin they saw.

The ant game has changed.

Back then, it was all about rotting timber eaten away by borers. Or a lump from the bull ant bite that wouldn’t disappear for days.

Now, the threat is more real.

Fire ants are a nasty piece of work.

They are the ant that defines “angry”, ready to charge and sting at the sight of anything that’s not a fire ant.

Nobody really knows how they got here. But they’re probably a gift from our American friends, even worse than junk food and the obnoxious humour beamed through black and white television sets in the 70s.

The nature of us all is that we take time to digest these things.

Fire ants were probably in Australia 40 years ago, but they were only officially detected in Brisbane in 2001.

Then, you look down a list of areas in Queensland where the authorities have snuffed out the unwanted visitors and you’ll see that there are now none in the port of Brisbane, and a number of regional towns and cities.

“Eradicated,” it says. There are dates. Port of Brisbane, for example, eradicated 2019.

Hooray for a state government system that’s protecting our borders from tiny six-legged hitchhikers that found themselves in shipping containers from the other side of the world.

Dig further into the state government fire ant literature and you’ll see that Moreton Bay, Somerset, Lockyer Valley, Southern Downs, Scenic Rim, Gold Coast and Murwillumbah are all being treated.

Not Logan.

That’s right, our closest neighbours matter. Logan doesn’t.

If I’m informed correctly, this newspaper has recently received calls, letters and information from concerned residents who’ve been trying to get rid of fire ant mounds for years.

Small properties with scores, if not hundreds, of little red ticking time bombs waiting to sting native wildlife.

The more I read about these critters, the worse it gets. Yes, all ailments will kill us if you believe Dr Google. But I’m sticking to credible sources, I promise.

Fire ants have, and will, kill small animals.

They’ve been known to kill farming stock. They’ve been known to kill humans.

Maybe there’s a bright side. Perhaps they’ll knock off the cane toads we brought in to kill off the cane beetle. 

The big difference of course, is that fire ant infestations weren’t our fault. They found themselves on a ship, a bit like the first settlers who’d stolen a loaf of bread.

And to be fair, the fire ants probably didn’t really want to come here either, until they discovered what a great climate we had and thought: “What the hell, let’s pop up a few mounds and make this our new home.”

The other big difference between fire ants and cane toads is that we don’t have to catch the ants one by one to put them in our freezer for a humane death.

We have stuff that gets rid of them. But the authorities aren’t responding to calls from people who need help to protect their horses, cattle, goats and other pets or livestock.

Why? I don’t know.

Hey Wanda, see those ants climbing the balustrade? I think it’s going to rain.

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