Imported red fire ants, also known as Solenopsis invicta, are now the fifth most invasive species in the world. They are responsible for billions of dollars worth of harm to the ecosystem in a wide range of countries. As colonies grow, they are invading new territory and destroying the valuable fauna that lives there. The specialists are concerned that these notoriously swarming insects, which originated in South America, will continue to expand as they have elsewhere and that they will eventually take over the entire continent.
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This is especially concerning because many of the cities, including London, Amsterdam, and Rome, have large seaports, which could allow the ants to spread rapidly to more countries and continents, explained Roger Vila, a biologist from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology.
The first confirmed observation of the aggressive species in Europe was made on the island of Sicily. Tragically, the country was invaded by red fire ants one by one. Because they hunt in groups (half a million ants), these insects are able to readily assault and overpower prey that is significantly larger than themselves. Their stings deliver a scorching venom that gives them their common name.
Authorities in Europe have stopped a few tainted assets from entering the continent over the course of the past several years.
The researchers discovered 88 nests in a rather small area of land next to a river in Sicily. Each of these colonies had tens of thousands of worker ants at the time of their discovery. The locals reported to the scientists that they had been experiencing wounds since 2019, which indicates that the ants had most likely moved to other regions as well. According to some estimates, only 7 percent of the continent of Europe has a climate that is favorable for the invaders. This includes almost 50 percent of the metropolitan regions in Europe.
In Sicily, researchers are now exploring potential solutions to the problem of removing as many fire ant nests as they possibly can. Nobody knows how much longer they will be able to stop the species from breeding and spreading.