​Media Release

Browsing ants told to move along

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce
Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries, Willem Westra van Holthe MLA


7 August 2015

The value of Australia’s biosecurity system and crucial cross-government teamwork is once again on display after a recent detection of the highly damaging browsing ant at Darwin Port.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, and Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries, Willem Westra van Holthe, said this species of ant posed a serious threat to Australia’s environment, agricultural industries and backyards.

“Browsing ants are an ant-eating species that forms super colonies which can become a significant horticultural, environmental and garden pest,” Minister Joyce said.

“Inspection and follow-up surveillance at Darwin seaport led to the detection of several individual ants, and we have now stepped up the search for any colonies so we can begin treatment.  

“Luckily, if found early, this species of ant can be effectively controlled with baits and sprays, and we’re working collaboratively with the Northern Territory Government to find any colonies and to destroy them.

“It’s important we remain vigilant and respond quickly to a detection, which is why Department of Agriculture’s biosecurity officers are patrolling seaports and airports looking for exotic pests.”

Minister Westra van Holthe said the detection and rapid response demonstrates the effectiveness of the Commonwealth and NT biosecurity systems.

“Together, we are committed to protecting industry by minimising the entry of new pests, diseases and weeds. Prompt detection of incursions and the minimisation of their impact is vital,” Minister Westra van Holthe said. 

“Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility; by working together we’re safeguarding the future of the Northern Territory and Australia more widely.” 

Minister Joyce said the browsing ant detection was an example of how the biosecurity system works to protect Australia’s unique environment, agricultural industries and economy.

“Our biosecurity system is in place to keep pests like this from becoming established in Australia—our horticultural industries are worth $9.23 billion to the Australian economy, and exotic pests and diseases can not only affect agricultural productivity, but also our trading status,” Minister Joyce said.

“The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) recently estimated our biosecurity system saves the average Australian farmer up to $17,500 each year in lost profits and how we detect and respond to exotic detections demonstrates the true value of this approach.”

The Department of Agriculture works off-shore, at the border and on-shore to safeguard our people, our unique environment and our $51 billion agricultural industries from many of the pests and diseases present in other parts of the world.

Members of the community, including those who work at or near our ports, are encouraged to report suspected sightings of exotic pests or diseases to the See-Secure-Report hotline on 1800 798 636.​