Tiny Itsy-Bitsy Small Australian Bad Things

When I spoke last week about very small Australian bad things, I mentioned that there was one tiny itsy-bitsy small Australian bad thing of which we have plenty, with some of them known to kill.

I was referring to ants.

Here, in just the Brisbane area alone, we have Jumper Ants, Giant Bull Ants, Greenhead Ants, Bicoloured Pennant Ants, Dome-Backed Spiny Ants, Banded Sugar Ants, Household Sugar Ants, Pasture Funnel Ants, Coastal Brown Ants, Spider Ants, Introduced Hairy Ants, Southern Meat Ants, Tufted Tyrant Ants, Black House Ants, Golden Tailed Spiny Ants and the most evil ant of all time, the Red Imported Fire Ant.

Fire Ants

The Red Imported Fire Ant

You will be pleased to know that I didn’t nip into my garden to take that picture. The picture is courtesy of Marufish who, I believe, took the photograph in Malaysia.

I will talk about the Red Imported Fire Ant in a minute. But let’s deal with the others first. Jumper Ants, Giant Bull Ants, Greenhead Ants and Bicoloured Pennant Ants are all aggressive and have quite painful stings.

Of the rest, some bite but not all. On top of that, the Jumper Ant really does jump and the Giant Bull Ant really is a giant. It is one of the longest ants in the world and can be up to 36 mm long. That’s almost an inch and a quarter to us.

Some ant stings have caused deaths in the same way that some wasp stings have, which is no surprise as ants and wasps are part of the same family. But deaths only occur if you have an allergic reaction to the sting and go into an anaphylactic shock. But as far as I can make out, no-one has died from an ant bite in this country. Antihistamines have taken care of that.

There, we can all relax.

For the record, since we have been here, we have all been stung by ants. My daughter was first, after walking barefoot through a small collection of green ants. She copped for about eight or nine stings on her feet and cried for about 20 minutes. We had heard the sting can burn for up to four or five days. But my wife put some cream on her, Elizabeth went to bed and by the morning it was all clear. She never mentioned it again.

I got nipped sitting on the grass during Queensland Day celebrations last year, causing a mild burning sensation for around 20 minutes.

My wife got stung a couple of months ago and yelped like a six-year-old for about 10 minutes. Then just got on with life. So ant stings are not such a big deal for us, but for anyone who is allergic it may be different.

The Red Imported Fire Ant

Fortunately, the Red Imported Fire Ant has pretty much been eradicated or controlled. The very first detection of this ant in the whole of Australia was in Brisbane in 2001. This sparked off a national government led emergency response. This ant rapidly forms super colonies and they eat a lot. Eating stuff that destroys the eco-environment.

Here, it is legislation to contact the National Fire Ant Eradication Program if you see a Red Imported Fire Ant nest. Within minutes those boys will be out like Ghostbusters! Control of the Red Ant here in Australia is ongoing with continued monitoring, containment and treatment.

As far as I know, that containment programme has managed to restrict those ants to within the Brisbane region in which they were originally spotted. Although complete eradication is difficult, it can be an aim here due to the relatively small area of infestation. But we’re not there yet.

The rapid response of the Australian government to the arrival of these ants was largely due to the knowledge of how this ant, which originates in South America, swiftly spread through North America causing devastation. It really is the worst ant in the world. If it were to spread in Australia, it would probably pose the greatest ecological threat this country has seen since the arrival of the……

Oh, I’ll tell you about him next week!


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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Geraldine April 22, 2016, 4:47 pm |

    My husband and myself were digging large holes in order to plant established trees in the back paddock of our property.

    We were both wearing long pants but I was not wearing boots. I moved some small rocks from an area that we wanted to plant in and saw some ants.

    Did not think anymore of it as the light was beginning to fade and we needed to get the job finished until I felt very painful stinging on my right knee. Red, swollen and very painful – we suspected a fire ant or a Golden Tailed spiny ant (by looking on the internet). I have since come up with at least 9 ulcers on the bite area and swelling from mid thigh down to mid calf.

    Antibiotics and steroid cream have been slow but thankfully are working.

    Please warn your readers about leaving things around i.e., ROCKS, wood etc., as they do not want to get bitten like I did.

    Off to by some Termidor, which we believe will kill the little beasts…..

    • BobinOz April 22, 2016, 7:44 pm |

      Ouch, sounds painful.

      If you believe there is any chance these things are fire ants, then I would get in touch with your local council if I were you. Here in Brisbane and I think in all of Australia, they have a task force ready to spring into action to destroy these monsters, they really are a threat to this country.

      I think fully destroying their nests involves more than going down to Coles and buying some Ant Rid, or Termidor or anything like that, and you really do want them gone. You don’t want to just annoy them.

      Hope you make a full recovery soon.

      • Geraldine April 23, 2016, 3:47 pm |

        Thank you for your comment and concern. Have identified the little monsters – they definitely are Golden Spiny Ants and give much the same bite as a Fire Ant. A very nasty set of bites.

        We have bought a chemical that can be mixed with water to spray them (whilst I stay in the house until they are gone). The spray will kill them from inside out and they won’t be very happy little ants……

        Bites are slowly going down but are actually leaving a bruise around the initial 9 bites…..

        Thank you once again – regards,


        • BobinOz April 25, 2016, 4:22 pm |

          Ah, then you will be pleased to hear that you haven’t been stung by these ants. No, instead though you have been sprayed with formic acid.

          Hope you get rid of them, cheers, Bob

    • Michelle February 24, 2018, 10:02 am |

      We had a colony of fire ants in backyard at Logan south of Brisbane, rang council, who told me to ring the “Special Task Force” for fire ants, got questioned, and then over a month later received a “kit” in the mail, a zip lock bag, a tissue, pair of plastic twezzers, Yep!, not joking, instruction, pick up ant with said twessers, fold in tissue place in plastic bag, making sure to secure zip lock, and post to dept….hmmm. we had already located the nest, and killed it ourselves. Yes I was informed, definatly a fire ant, nerve saw anybody ad no taskforce, so how serious are they, did I mention our place backs onto a primary school, yep! They were informed of this, lots of big trees and scrubby type land, did we see anybody at all, noooo!

      • BobinOz February 26, 2018, 6:28 pm |

        Unbelievable! If that is their idea of a response, then I think it’s safe to say that Australia will lose its battle against the fire ant. I would have expected better than that. I’m not sure why they can’t identify the ant from a photo sent in from your phone and I would have thought, once positively identified, that they would send the Ghostbusters team round within a few days.

        Responding like this is a disaster. If you read the press, they say that losing this battle could end up costing the economy $35 billion, so you would think they’d chuck a bit of money and this now and a bit of urgency as well.

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