[caption id="attachment_82321" align="aligncenter" width="523"] This is one of the most common and widespread Myrmica species of the Palaearctic. Occurs in the region stretching from Portugal to East Siberia (till Transbaikalia), and from northern Greece to the forest-tundra natural zone in the North. It is also currently invading Japan and North America where they are considered a nuisance as it is an invasive species.[/caption]Homeowners across British Columbia who are busy with spring cleaning chores are being urged to be on the lookout for European fire ants.
Scientists at Thomas Rivers University are sounding the alert that colonies of these stinging insects are now being found throughout Victoria and Vancouver. Fire ants are an aggressive species that are red-brown in color and measure about four millimeters in length. Although they were found in British Columbia for the first time three years ago, it has now been determined that they have established colonies in two dozen different places.
Scientists surmise that they may have migrated to new homes throughout British Columbia through soil or potted plants that have been shipped to this region from Europe or the eastern half of North America, where fire ants have been a problem for several decades. Although fire ants first originated in South America, they have easily adapted to other climates. One of their most distinctive characteristics is their ability to survive below freezing temperatures and extreme weather conditions.
They prefer to nest in areas where the soil is moist, such as along the banks of rivers, on roadway shoulders, on the shores of ponds, and even on well-watered lawns.
Individuals who stumble upon their colonies in warm weather often disturb the ants enough for them to gather into a swarm and start stinging. Experts on these invasive insects say that it is very difficult to eradicate the colonies once they are established because just one colony can contain as many as 1,000 worker ants and 20 queen ants, making it almost impossible to kill off every one. When any members of a colony are killed, egg production tends to increase. Fire ants bite humans as well as horses and dogs, using a venom producing uncomfortable itching.
[caption id="attachment_82320" align="aligncenter" width="350"] The European fire ant, Myrmica rubra, was first recorded in BC in 2010 and has since been confirmed in several isolated locations in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, Chilliwack, Victoria and Courtenay. The fire ant is likely to occur in other neighbouring municipalities. The species is native to Europe and Asia and was first introduced to eastern North America in the 1900s. Over the past ten years it has become a significant pest in a number of states in the US and Canadian provinces. European fire ants prefer moist environments, making irrigated lawns and gardens on the West Coast of BC an ideal place to become established.[/caption]
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