Exotic invasive ants

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Exotic invasive ants​

Exotic to Australia, under eradication or management

Features: This group of invasive ant species, including the red
imported fire ant, are aggressive, spread quickly and would
disrupt our environment and usual way of life
Where they're from: Asia, Africa, Europe, North America,
Central America, Caribbean, South America, Oceania
How they spread: Importation of goods, packaging or
conveyances infested with ants
At risk: The environment, our way of life, agriculture,
infrastructure and human health

Red imported fire ant is one of the invasive tramp ant species
we need to keep out of Australia.
Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service,

Report it

Keep it out

These invasive ant species are highly invasive. Once introduced, they spread rapidly threatening the environment, agriculture and way of life.

Invasive ants can disrupt local wildlife, sting humans and animals and prevent people from enjoying the outdoors.  They can eat plants and even damage machinery and buildings including electrical insulation.

Many species originate from South America, including red imported fire ant, the Argentine ant and the electric ant, but browsing ant is native to southern Europe. Yellow crazy ant is thought to originate from Africa but can now be found throughout the Pacific.

Stop the spread

Some species have already invaded parts of Australia and measures are in place to prevent them spreading any further or to eradicate them.

Summary of exotic invasive ant incursions in Australia
Species Subject to eradication Established
African big-headed ant (Pheidole megacephala) N/A WANT, QLD, NSW
Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) N/A WA, QLD, SA, VIC, NSW, TASACT
Browsing ant (Lepisiota frauenfeldi) WANT N/A
Electric ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) QLD N/A
Yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) NT QLDChristmas Island
Red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) QLDNSW N/A
Tropical fire ant (Solenopsis geminata) Tiwi Islands NT

Importing goods

To keep invasive ants out of Australia, never ignore Australia’s strict biosecurity rules.

Import shipments may need to be treated and certified, so before you import, check our Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON).

What to look for

Keep an eye out for unfamiliar ant species, particularly around anything newly imported, or if you live near ports.

African big-headed ant (Pheidole megacephala) April Nobile / © AntWeb.org / CC-BY-SA-3.0
One soldier and several worker African big-headed ants Dr Ben Hoffman, CSIRO


Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) Simon Hinkley & Ken Walker Museum Victoria
Argentine ants on a spider Dr Ben Hoffman, CSIRO


Browsing ant (Lepisiota frauenfeldi) Erin Prado / © AntWeb.org / CC-BY-SA-3.0
Browsing ants on a man’s hand. West Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development


Electric ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) Simon Hinkley & Ken Walker Museum Victoria
Yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) Ken Walker Museum Victoria


Yellow crazy ants (Anoplolepis gracilipes) on a leaf. Dr Ben Hoffman, CSIRO
Red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) Amy Carmichael Queensland University of Technology


Red imported fire ant nest. Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment
Tropical fire ant (Solenopsis geminata) Tracey Smith Department of Agriculture Western Australia


Tropical fire ants on tuna Dr Ben Hoffman, CSIRO


Where to look


If you work around imported goods you need to look for invasive ants on:

  • crates
  • machinery
  • plant material
  • shipping containers
  • conveyances.

Home gardeners and people living near ports

Ants can be moved in:

  • containers
  • soil
  • plants
  • timber
  • machinery
  • goods carried by passengers.

Moving items out of your backyard, including pot plants can be an easy way for invasive ants to move to new locations. If you live in an area known to have invasive ants, take care not to spread them with items such as these. Consider leaving the items behind.

What to do

If you think you’ve found invasive ants:

  • take a photo
  • do not disturb the ants (this may be as simple as closing the doors on a shipping container or bagging a pot plant)
  • collect a sample, if safe to do so.

Read the detail


Last reviewed: 14 September 2020
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