The fire ant has arrived in Europe: a potential threat to biodiversity, a painful sting and a link to climate change

Spanish and Italian researchers have discovered 88 colonies of these ants on an Italian island, although this insect is in principle very rare in European territory. American scientific journal Current Biology reports.

They are a direct threat to ecosystems and biodiversity as they damage crops and can displace native ant species. Also, this venomous ant can sting humans, causing considerable pain and, in extreme cases, leading to anaphylactic shock.

Researchers aren’t exactly sure how the species arrived in Sicily, but expect the pest to spread across the continent in the coming years. For example, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) notes that in a few years, a colony can contain up to 230,000 ants.

These ants adapt to warmer environments, which is directly related to climate change. So insects may thrive in a Europe facing rising temperatures.

From 2022, the species remains on the European Union (EU) list of invasive alien species, meaning it cannot be kept or traded in EU member states.

Originally from South America, the fire ant has also been present for many years in Mexico, China, the Caribbean, Taiwan and Australia. Europe has long been unexplored territory for this species. In the Netherlands, for example, it was observed only four times until 2022. Genetic research indicates that the ants found in Sicily may have originated from specimens living in America or China.

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