The red fire ant is now established in Europe and could reach the UK

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An international study, led by the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), has discovered numerous colonies of this invasive species in Sicily, Italy.

The study confirmed that the red fire ant, considered one of the most invasive species in the world, and the fifth most costly to combat, has been introduced and established in Europe.

Their most probable origin, according to the study results, is China or the United States.

The study shows that half of the urban areas in Europe are suitable for the survival of the red fire ant, with cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Paris and London among the most suitable.

A study published in Current Biology, led by the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), a joint centre of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), has identified 88 red fire ant nests spread over five hectares near the city of Syracuse, in Sicily, Italy.

These are invasive colonies that could have come from China or the United States, where it is also an invasive species, according to the study’s genetic analyses.

The red fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, is an invasive species from South America that has had a major impact on ecosystems, agriculture and human health in several countries worldwide. Its sting is painful and irritating and can cause pustules and allergic reactions, possibly leading to anaphylactic shock.

In less than a century, this ant has spread in much of the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, China, Taiwan and Australia, and has been eradicated only in New Zealand.

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With more than 25 years' experience in business-to-business publishing, Simon is editor of LBM titles Pest and OvertheCounter. Big fan of Manchester United.