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Discovery of a queen ant cautions Japan (1)

By: Floro Mercene

ENVIRONMENT Ministry of Japan officials say they found ant nests in a container at a storage facility in Amagasaki City in Hyogo Prefecture on May 26, 2017, and experts confirmed they were fire ants. Fire ants have been found in Japan for the first time. They came from a container that was unloaded in Kobe port after arriving from the Chinese province of Guangdong.

On June 30, a team from the Environment Ministry found fire ants in earth around a container transported from Hong Kong. On July 3, a further 50 dead ants were found at the same site at the port, including the one that was later confirmed as the queen. A dangerous queen is dead, but her sheer presence on Japanese soil in the first place means the threat of an alien invasion and the establishment of a colony here.

The fire ant has been listed as one of the most serious invasive alien species in the world, because of their small size, high production ability, and strong venom.

They bring serious damages to agriculture, human health and ecological balance. The ants are aggressive and tend to sting numerous times if they feel threatened. A sting causes sharp burning pain, and leads to anaphylactic shock symptoms in some people such as trouble breathing, dizziness, shaky hands and problems seeing, which may result in death.

Moreover, fire ants are highly productive. A queen can lay more than 1,000 eggs a day and lives up to six to seven years. Workers can live for one or two months. Fire ants colonies can have multiple queens. Colony numbers can vary from 100,000 to 250,000 individuals.

Fire ants, originally from South America, now have already set up colonies in the United States, China, Taiwan, Australia and elsewhere after they hitched a lift in cargo and other means.

(To be continued)