CANBERRA: Invasive fire ants could sting millions of Australians every year if they spread throughout the country, experts have warned.

In a submission to a Senate inquiry into red imported fire ants (RIFA) in Australia, the government-funded National Allergy Centre of Excellence and NGO Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia predicted that if the ants become endemic to Australia they would sting 8.6 million people every year, reported Xinhua.

According to their submission to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee inquiry, one quarter of sting victims would develop an allergic reaction and 174,000 would require medical attention.

“If RIFA became endemic in Australia it is likely that hospitalisations and deaths due to stinging insects would significantly increase,“ it said.

Federal, state and territory governments have committed 592.8 million Australian dollars (US$391.4 million) in funding to the National Fire Ant Eradication Programme 2023-2027 Response Plan in a bid to stop the species from spreading.

Native to South America, the RIFA was first detected in Australia in the northeastern state of Queensland in 2001.

According to the 2023-2027 response plan, the RIFA is capable of establishing colonies in 99 per cent of mainland Australia where it would cause problems for infrastructure assets by building nests underneath structures and potentially devastate agriculture industries by damaging crops and machinery. –Bernama-Xinhua

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