Red Fire Ants are one of world's most feared creatures and could be heading to UK
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Scientists have warned that due to an increase in the world’s temperature, the UK could potentially see red fire ants flocking to the British shores.
Red fire ants - or Solenopsis invicta - are quite small, varying from 2-6mm in length, and are predominantly reddish-brown in colour, per the Global Invasive Species Database.
However, this small but invasive insect is also known for omitting a painful sting and for thriving in urban areas.
And for the first time in history, scientists have issued warnings after discovering nearly 90 red fire ant nests in Europe.
In a new report, published in Current Biology, it is claimed that during the winter of 2022/23, ‘88 nests extending over about 4.7 hectares (11.6 acres or 47,000 square metres)’ were found.
The researchers also stated that these aggressive ants were uncovered ‘near the city of Syracuse, Sicily’ in an area ‘bordering a river estuary’.
Regarding the findings, Roger Vila from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology’s Butterfly Diversity and Evolution Lab said: “Coordinated efforts for early detection and rapid response in the region are essential to successfully manage this new threat, before it spreads uncontrollably.”
Due to global warming and the ant being a 'hot climate specialist', researchers have concluded that many urban areas in Europe could be deemed as ‘suitable’ for an ant infestation.
Elsewhere, it’s also stated that ‘continental areas receiving more than 510mm of precipitation per year will support S. Invicta’.
Cities such as London, Rome, Barcelona and Paris have all been earmarked as suitable locations for the invasion to thrive.
Elsewhere, scientists also revealed that we could see the critter 'mainly occupying agricultural areas and, to a lesser extent, urban and protected areas'.
While the ant has previously been found in countries such as Finland, Spain and the Netherlands, these are the first wild nests to be uncovered on the continent.
Despite the looming threat, The Guardian reports that the British government is yet to update its ‘species of concern’ list to include the red fire ant.
If no action is taken, the UK could follow in Australia’s footsteps and be forced to spend millions of pounds on the ant’s eradication.
Lead author of the study Mattia Menchetti said: “The public could play a key role in the detection of Sinvicta, considering that it is frequently found in urban and adjacent areas.
“It is possible to detect this ant due to its painful stings and the characteristic mounds of their nests, although confirmation of an expert is required.”
Following the discovery of the 88 ant nests near the Sicilian port, the team has recommended that they further monitor the insects to help avoid migration.
It’s said that a red fire ant queen can produce from 800 to 2000 eggs per day and that mature colonies could contain up to 400,000 worker ants.