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Discovery of a queen ant cautions Japan (2)

By: Floro Mercene

Hundreds of highly poisonous fire ants have been found at the port of Yokohama near Tokyo. Officials of the Environment Ministry found more than 500 ants near containers at a wharf last month. They say the survey also found larvae and pupae – each numbering more than 100 – and this suggests that the fire ants are reproducing at the wharf.

Since May when the fire ants were found for the first time in Japan, they have been found at a number of places in Japan. A behavioral ecology expert says referring to the first confirmation on July 4 of the queen ant, the possibility that more queens may exist in Japan. The presence of a queen is the key for ant species to settle in Japan. If a new queen is born in Japan, it will be far away to build its nest then it will be difficult to trace them all. “It takes between six months to a year for the species to establish a colony boasting a population of tens of thousands of fire ants. If a new queen ant was born in Japan, the pest’s habitat could expand beyond the Japanese coastal areas. Fire ants like open space such as parks, or grassy fields, but inhabitants in residential areas will also need to be careful”, say experts. It is important to find them quickly and eradicate them.

The ants have spread to China, Taiwan and other parts of Asia via cargo ships and other routes over the past 10 years.

In the United States, the fire ant first arrived in the seaport of Mobile, Alabama, by cargo ship between 1933 and 1945. By the 1950s, the population of these ants exploded. In Australia, fire ants were first discovered in Queensland in 2001. New Zealand authorities were successful in eradicating fire ants from their island nation, but it took them several years to accomplish it after the first discovery of a nest.

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