"They cost the world billions of dollars" / One of the most "invasive" insects in the world arrives in Europe

2023-09-12 08:18:00, Kuriozitete CNA
"They cost the world billions of dollars" / One of the most
Illustrative photo

The red fire ant, one of the world's most "invasive" insects, has been found in Europe for the first time, according to a new study.

The imported ant, which has the scientific name Solenopsis invicta, is native to South America but has spread to much of the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, China and Australia over the past century.

These insects can be aggressive when disturbed and have a painful bite, which is irritating to the skin and can cause allergic reactions.

Ants can also damage crops and local ecosystems. Researchers said they had identified 88 nests of red ants spread over 5 hectares of land near the city of Syracuse in Sicily, Italy.

"Finding this species in Italy was a big surprise, but we knew this day would come," said researcher Menchetti.

While red fire ants had been detected in imported products in Spain, Finland and the Netherlands, a colony had never been confirmed before this study, the authors said.

Colonies were found in a suburban area of ??Syracuse. It was unclear how and when the fire ants got there. The researchers behind the study believe the insects must have arrived at a transit point with a lot of human activity, such as the city's port.

Local residents told scientists that ant stings had increased since 2019.

The study suggested that the wind may have transported flying queen ants from northwest of Syracuse, where the commercial port is located.

Genetic analysis of the ants revealed that they were most likely spread from the United States or China, where Solenopsis invicta is also an invasive insect.

Ants could soon spread across Europe, researchers warned, as 7% of the continent - including large urban areas such as Barcelona, ??Rome, London and Paris - has a climate that is suitable for the insects.

Invasive insects cost the world at least $423 billion each year as they drive the extinction of plants and animals, threaten food security and exacerbate environmental disasters across the globe, according to a United Nations-backed report released last week. CNA

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