Report a pest of concern

  • Newly imported goods and shipping containers may contain exotic pests.
  • If you see anything unusual or unexpected around imported shipping containers or recently imported goods, secure it and report it to us immediately.
  • Report any suspected detections to the See. Secure. Report hotline.
  • Call 1800 798 636 or use our online form.
  • You will not be prosecuted if you or someone you know has accidentally imported risk material.
  • Our specially trained officers investigate all reports relating to imported items.

See. Secure. Report hotline

See secure report

The problem

Australia is currently free of some of the world’s most serious hitchhiker pests that threaten our industries, economy, environment and way of life.

This is because we have a strong biosecurity system that works to prevent pests entering and establishing here.

However, the risk of hitchhiker pests entering Australia is increasing due to climate change, intensification of agriculture, increased movement of people and products, and supply chain complexities. Pests are spreading around the world and are being found in increasing numbers on or within sea containers and imported goods.

An incursion of a hitchhiker pest in Australia could cost billions of dollars.

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Khapra beetle

What are hitchhiker pests?

In simple terms, hitchhiker pests are those that can ‘hitch a ride’ to Australia within or on shipping containers, imported goods and other forms of transportation. They are not native to Australia but have a specific biology or behaviour that enables them to use or associate with inanimate goods or containers, survive an extended journey, and actively disperse to Australia’s environment.

For example, khapra beetle can survive for several years in the cracks and crevices of shipping containers without food. This is due to a biological trait where they can go into a dormant state. Once they come across a food source (such as grain), khapra can re-emerge. If they are in a favourable place (such as a rural grain producing area of Australia), their population can grow rapidly and contaminate any nearby goods.

Learn more about some of the hitchhiker pests we want to keep out

The cost of a hitchhiker pest incursion

Hitchhiker pests can destroy entire agricultural industries. Some, such as khapra beetle, pose a human health risk. Some can become a major nuisance in outdoor settings (such as invasive ants) or the household (such as brown marmorated stink bug). They can also cause a wide range of problems for our native plants and wildlife by outcompeting them for resources and introducing diseases.

It is essential that we work together to keep hitchhiker pests out of Australia.

An incursion could cost* Australia (Hafi & Addai, 2014).

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$19.4B

over 20 years for khapra beetle

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$10.6B

over 20 years for red imported fire ant

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$2.1B

over 20 years for Flighted Spongy Moth Complex

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$1.9B

over 20 years for giant African snail

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$0.88B

over 20 years for Asian honeybees

How you can help

We need your help to protect Australia from the growing threat of hitchhiker pests.

Hitchhiker pests may be detected in a wide range of locations and items. We need every Australian and our international trading partners to look out for them. Together, we can stop these serious pests from calling Australia home.

Imports into Australia

You can help to look for signs of hitchhiker pests if you:

  • unload, process or transport imported cargo from our ports
  • store, unpack or sell imported goods
  • are a consumer who has recently purchased imported appliances, furniture and imported other goods
  • deal with imported goods on regional properties or farms
  • treat, pack, send or export goods to Australia.

Keep an eye out for anything unusual, especially when dealing with newly imported goods in Australia.

Exports from Australia

We also encourage those involved in the export supply chain to implement measures for minimising any pest and contaminant risks associated with outbound containers.

Giant African snail
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Where to look

Australia is full of native beetles, snails and ants. So how can you tell if what you have found is a hitchhiker pest?

Well, it’s all about where you find the pest (or evidence of it) and if it’s unusual to see it there. You are more likely to find hitchhiker pests in or around items that have recently arrived in Australia from overseas. This includes:

  • shipping containers
  • timber pallets used to transport goods
  • cardboard boxes
  • packaging such as loose fill packaging, plastic stretch film or sticky tape
  • recently imported break bulk cargo and large machinery such as tractors
  • warehouses or retail stores containing imported goods
  • homes containing recently purchased goods.

Many shipping containers and imported goods are opened for the first time at ports, depots, warehouses, importer’s premises, retail stores and even personal households. It’s important to be particularly vigilant of hitchhiker pests in these settings.

What to look for

Hitchhiker pests are great at hiding so you might only come across evidence of them. This could be:

  • sawdust and frass (insect droppings and skins)
  • small holes in timber, plastic or cardboard
  • insect eggs and egg masses
  • nests such as those from ants or bees
  • snails in a variety of colours, sizes and forms
  • mud smears and dirt or soil.

In addition, always keep a look out for the pests themselves.

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Some examples of hitchhiker pests include:

Workers

What we are doing

The Australian government is committed to strengthening our biosecurity system.

The hitchhiker pest program aims to address the risk of hitchhiker pests that can be carried via sea containers, their cargoes and associated packaging.

The program is specifically focused on plant arthropod hitchhiker pests that can arrive via sea containers and the cargo they contain.

Learn more about the hitchhiker pest program

Training

Learn more about hitchhiker pests by completing an online Hitchhiker Pest course, available via Plant Health Australia’s Biosecurity Online Training (BOLT) learning management platform.

The training course was produced by Plant Health Australia, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries.

Resources

Our web pages

*Not all species included on these webpages are considered hitchhiker pests 

External resources

References

Cost of incursion data sourced from: Hafi, A & Addai, D 2014, Economic consequences for species representing different pest groups affecting portfolio industries, ABARES report to client prepared for the Risk branch, DAFF, Canberra, September.

  • *Note: Figures are presented in 2022-23-dollar figure equivalents to account for inflation.

Contact us

Authorised by the Australian Government, Canberra.