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Australia's unique ecosystems are under threat from an invasive and deadly species – the red fire ant. The tiny ant is native to South America, but has spread across the globe over the past century. It is one of the world's most invasive creatures. It causes extensive damage to crops and agricultural land. It also kills large numbers of indigenous insects and other animals, including livestock. The ant's painful and venomous sting can cause severe allergic reactions in humans. It can also cause fatal anaphylactic shock. A spokeswoman for the Minister for Agriculture called the fire ants "a terrible invasive super-pest, which cause serious social, economic and environmental harm".

Red fire ants were first detected in Australia in 2001. They have largely been contained within the state of Queensland since then. However, Australia's Invasive Species Council (ISC) says the ants are spreading across the country on flood waters. They are clinging to each other in their tens of thousands to form "rafts" on the storm water. An ISC statement said: "Fire ants are more active before or after rainfall and can form large floating rafts, which move with water currents to establish footholds in new areas." It added: "Our teams are focused on limiting further spread." The ISC warned that the fire ants will reach "every corner of Australia" if the current outbreak is not kept in check.



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