European Fire Ant
- Size: very small and thin. Workers are about 0.5cm long and queens are slightly larger.
- Colour: reddish-brown
- A constricted waist with two segments (as opposed to most native ants in BC that have a constricted waist with only one segment)
- Middle body section has two backwards-pointing spines
Habitat and Origin
Origin: European Fire Ants are native to Europe and Asia and were first introduced to Eastern North America in the 1900s.
Spread: Since they were first found in BC in 2000, European Fire Ants have spread to the lower mainland, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan.
Habitat: European Fire Ants prefer moist environments on BC’s West Coast. Irrigated lawns and gardens are ideal for them.
Nest characteristics: European Fire Ants do not have obvious mounded nests. Their nests are beneath the ground in soil or mulch, along plant roots, in lawns, under rocks and logs, and in decaying wood or other rotting debris. Each nest is no large than 15cm wide and can extend up to 60cm below the ground. Each nest can have a few hundred to a few thousand workers and on average 20 egg-laying queens.
Each nest has approximately 20 egg-laying queens.
Vectors of Spread
European Fire Ants are spread through the movement of infested garden material such as soil, mulch and plants. Colonies also spread naturally through “budding”. This happens when queens, along with groups of workers leave their nest to establish a new colony close by (often less than a meter from the original colony)
Economic and Ecological Impacts
Economic impact: European Fire Ants are aggressive and tend to swarm when disturbed. The painful stings render gardens, lawns, and parks unusable by residents, the public, and animals.
Ecological impact: European Fire Ants displace native ant species.
What Can I Do?
European Fire Ants have not yet been found in the Sea to Sky, so prevention is key.
Ensure that soil, mulch, and potted plants brought onto your property are not contaminated by European Fire Ants.
If you suspect a neighbouring area is infested with European Fire Ants, deter them from moving into your yard by:
- Avoiding/removing objects from your yard that attract heat andmoisture, such as paving stones.
- Reducing watering
- Not harming any existing native ant species on your property.
European Fire Ants have an aggressive behaviour, tending to swarm and sting anything that moves near their nest. They are most active when it is warm and humid.
The venom that European Fire Ants inject causes a burning sensation for up to 2 hours. The are becomes red and inflamed and itches for a few days to a week.
When treating European Fire Ant infestations, ensure that the appropriate personal protective gear is worn, including closed-toed shoes or rubber boots. Make sure you tuck in your pants and seal any other gaps between items of clothing so that no skin is exposed. Gloves are also recommended. Ants that come in contact with the skin can be brushed away, but crushing them will provoke them to sting.
- Metro Vancouver European Fire Ant Best Management Plan, http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/regional-planning/PlanningPublications/EuropeanFireAntsBMP.pdf
- Thompson Rivers University, https://inside.tru.ca/2015/08/20/small-victory-in-fire-ant-fight/ and http://faculty.tru.ca/rhiggins/
- Van Dusen Botanical Garden, http://www.vandusengarden.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/spring-2015-bulletin.pdf
- Government of BC, European Fire Ants in British Columbia, https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/plants-animals-and-ecosystems/invasive-species/alerts/european_fire_ant_alert.pdf