Agriculture Victoria has issued a warning about electric ants following a recent scare in Echuca.
Exotic-looking tiny red ants were found living inside an Echuca man's water meter.
Luckily, the man's quick-thinking to contact Agriculture Victoria enabled them to rule out a potential incursion of electric ants (Wasmannia auropunctata).
Agriculture Victoria leading biosecurity officer Emily Hill said when the Echuca resident found the unusual ants, he contacted Agriculture Victoria straight away to make a report.
This included providing a series of close-up photos which Ms Hill said was of a great help.
"However, our entomologists weren't able to categorically determine whether they were a highly invasive exotic species or not," she said.
As a result, biosecurity officers were soon on the scene and the ants were sampled for further formal identification at the Centre for AgriBioscience Bundoora.
"Thankfully, in this instance, the ants sampled were found to be a native species that were morphologically similar to electric ants," Ms Hill said.
"Electric ants are highly aggressive and can rapidly spread through a variety of landscapes, displacing native species and causing injury to livestock, wildlife, pets and people with painful bites."
Ms Hill said these exotic ant species - which are present in Queensland and under an eradication program there - could come into Victoria in a variety of ways.
Once in the state, they could quickly spread through human activity with the movement of plants, plant products, garden waste or machinery.
Once established, they are known to spread up to 170 metres per year, with a more typical rate range of zero to 25 metres per year, depending on the environment.
There are multiple exotic ant species of concern to biosecurity officers, but none of the species are known to be in Victoria.
Agriculture Victoria is working to ensure the state remains free of these highly invasive pest species to protect the environment, agricultural production and social amenity.
Reports of exotic species can be made by emailing email@example.com or by calling 136 186.
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