Stinging fire ants dubbed ‘world’s most invasive species’ set to invade Britain

Stinging red fire ants could be set to invade Britain for the first time, boffins warn.

The insect, one of the world’s most invasive species, has been previously confined to other continents.

But now due to climate change hordes of the pests are on the march towards the UK.

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Boffins have identified 88 red fire ant nests spread over five hectares near the city of Syracuse on the Italian island of Sicily.

They now predict our major cities, including London, may be taken over by the critters.

Study leader Roger Vila, of Spain’s Institute of Evolutionary Biology, said: “The results suggest that half of the urban areas in Europe would be climatically suitable for the establishment of this invasive species.

“Large cities such as Barcelona, Rome, London or Paris could be considerably affected by this invasive species, which can impact people’s lifestyles due to its abundance and aggressiveness.

“Mediterranean coastal cities, highly connected by seaports, are the most suitable to S. invicta, which could facilitate its spread.

“Considering climate change predictions, the scenario could become much worse, as the species could potentially expand to other parts of Europe."

“Coordinated efforts for early detection and rapid response in the region are essential to successfully manage this new threat, before it spreads uncontrollably.

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“It is possible to detect this ants due to its painful stings and the characteristic mounds of their nests, although confirmation of an expert is required.”

They say the colonies in Sicily could have come from China or the US.

The ants’ stings are described as “painful and irritating” and can cause pustules and allergic reactions – potentially triggering a deadly anaphylactic shock.

Originally from South America, the red fire ant has had a massive impact on ecosystems, agriculture and human health in several countries.

Ecological models show “alarming” predictions about the colonisation potential of the ant in Europe.

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