Tropical fire ants are a major pest
Tropical fire ants were first located in the 2000s at Pirlangimpi, Milikapiti and Yapilika on Melville Island, one of the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin in the Northern Territory.
Tropical fire ants have been in Australia for more than 80 years and are found throughout major settlements in the Top End of the Northern Territory. The ants were most likely introduced to the Tiwi Islands via barge cargo from Darwin.
Tropical fire ants (Solenopsis geminata) are a major pest of agriculture and horticulture around the world. The ant gets its name from the burning sensation that results from its powerful sting, which can also result in anaphylactic shock in people allergic to wasps, ants or bees.
Tropical fire ant nests are very conspicuous, with freshly worked earth heaped into a loose pile. Semi-subterranean trails up to 20 metres long are a common sight extending from the nests, particularly after rain. Unlike most ants, Tropical fire ants frequently move their colonies. They are rarely found inside houses.
The Tiwi Tropical Fire Ant Project
Since 2003, CSIRO has been working with the Tiwi Land Rangers and the Tiwi Plantations Corporation to eradicate tropical fire ants on Melville Island, which is the second largest island in Australia.
As part of the Tiwi Tropical Fire Ant Project, at least fifty three inspections of every household at Pirlangimpi on Melville Island were conducted for ten years. The project is strongly supported by the Tiwi people and is part of a long-term research program by CSIRO looking at best options for managing pest ants in remote areas of northern Australia.
Award winning research
The Tiwi Tropical Fire Ant Project has achieved some of the world's largest pest ant eradications. Two of the three areas where Tropical fire ants have been eradicated on Melville Island are the second and fourth largest ant eradications ever achieved - 252 and 59 hectares respectively.
In 2015 the project won the Biodiversity category of the United Nations Association of Australia World Environment Day Awards.
The ant has been eradicated from Pirlangimpi and two other locations. Eradication is close to being finalised at Yapilika and Milikapiti.