Poster Presentation Science Protecting Plant Health 2017

Join the ant hunt: how to successfully engage the public to find fire ants (#303)

Melinda K McNaught 1 , F. Ross Wylie 1 , Christine M Horlock 1
  1. Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Moggill, QLD, Australia

The invasive Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta) has been the subject of a national eradication program in south-east Queensland since 2001. Early in the program, a strong focus was placed on engaging the Brisbane public about fire ants, which has continued throughout the life of the program. Commitment to a significant and long-term public awareness campaign means that the Brisbane public has been informed on the identification, impacts, and control of fire ants for more than a decade. The tools employed include media campaigns, mail outs of educational material and treatment notifications, school visits with odour detection dogs, industry and community training events, the use of static displays and signage in public areas, liaising with local government authorities, touring with a mobile office unit, and a strong digital profile through a website and social media. In recent years, the program has also been accepting and processing photos from the public, which has been very successful in locating new fire ant detections.

Over the last 16 years, the benefits of the program’s community engagement activities are being realised, with the program enjoying strong brand awareness and a high success rate with public sample submissions. At present, the majority of new detections of fire ant infestation are being reported by the public. As the program continues, community engagement will play a crucial role in ensuring that public awareness remains high, and in turn, the program can maintain its confidence in the public’s ability to find fire ants—which has been demonstrated to a high degree. We hope the investment in passive surveillance within both current and future eradication programs is recognised as worthwhile.