Red fire ants: They have a painful sting and could be coming to Britain thanks to global warming | Climate news

Red fire ants, a destructive invasive species whose stings are painful and cause irritation and allergic reactions, could be on their way to Britain thanks to global warming, scientists have warned.

The insect has arrived Europe for the first time, researchers from Current Biology have said, after they found nearly 90 nests in the Italy.

Their report said: “We documented 88 nests spanning about 4.7 hectares (11.6 acres or 47,000 square metres) during the winter of 2022/2023.”

They were found “in Sicily, near the city of Syracuse,”… in an area “bordering on an estuary.”

Now it could spread across the continent to Britain, according to the research team, which used genetic analysis, wind tracking and species distribution modeling to predict its potential range.

Half of the urban areas in Europe are already suitable and predicted climate heating “will favor the expansion of this invasive ant,” said the report, published on the magazine’s website.

The creature could be able to gain a foothold, the report said, “in about 7% of the study region, mainly occupied by agricultural areas and to a lesser extent urban areas and protected areas”.

They couldn’t say for sure how or when the fire ants got there, but the researchers said they thought the insects must have arrived from a place with lots of human activity, such as the city’s harbor.

The ants can be aggressive when disturbed and have a painful sting that irritates the skin and can cause allergic reactions.

Local people said ant stings had increased since 2019, the researchers said.

Red fire ants, or Solenopsis invicta, are classified as one of the world’s worst alien invasive species and the fifth most expensive.

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In less than 100 years, the insects have spread from their homeland of South America to Mexico, the Caribbean and Australia through human trafficking.

They have now arrived in the United States, where the species causes about $6 billion (£4.8 billion) in damage each year, CNN said.

Red fire ants can quickly form multi-queen supercolonies and prey on invertebrates, larger vertebrates and plants, destroying native plants and driving out native ants, insects and herbivores by out-competing them for food.

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