Now it turns out the stinging invaders from South America are using US as a staging ground to invade China, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.
Now it turns out the stinging invaders from South America are using US as a staging ground to invade China, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand. AP Photo - Kenneth G. Ross

Ollie and Willow are keeping our schools fire ant free

MEET Ollie and Willow - two of the dozen dogs hunting down fire ants across south-east Queensland.

The dogs have been trained to hunt for the scent of a fire ant nest. Handlers bury a stick that smells lightly of the ants and send the dogs to search the area.

If the only thing the dogs find is the stick, handlers can be confident there are no fire ant nests.

They are used to hunt down smaller nests in sensitive areas such as schools. They work in conjunction with helicopter-mounted heat cameras to search for infestations.

The two Biosecurity Queensland dogs will be on display at the Queensland Government Ekka booth.

Agriculture Minister Leanne Donaldson said dogs like Ollie and Willow were helping fight back against the imported ants.

"They're one of the frontline responders in biosecurity in Queensland," she said.

"It's a really important role that they play."

Ms Donaldson said fire ants were potentially deadly and hugely destructive.

"They do incredible damage. Not only to our agriculture but to households, to electrical infrastructure," she said.

"What the experience has been in the US is that up to I think it's about 100 people have actually died from red fire ants."

Although Ipswich and the Lockyer Valley are on the frontline of the fight against fire ants, the dogs work across the south-east to search for new outbreaks. The first fire ant detection dogs were used in Queensland in 2006. - ARM NEWSDESK


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