The fire ant will invade France and here is why it is very bad news for our health

The fire ant will invade France and here is why it is very bad news for our health

According to a new study, the fire ant, an invasive exotic species with a formidable sting, has settled in Europe. Bad news for our health and for biodiversity. We’ll explain it to you.

There’s nothing very cute about this little ant. There Solenopsis invincible more commonly called “Fire Ant”, one of the worst invasive exotic species, is indeed established in Europe according to a study published Monday September 11. And this development does not bode well, according to scientists.

Why should we fear the fire ant?

These ants are native to South America, but until now we knew that they had “migrated” also in Australia, China, the Caribbean and the United States. They are today found in Sicily, much closer to us, undoubtedly due to maritime transport. However, this species is feared for two reasons:

  • First of all its sting, recognized as painful can legitimately worry us. Their venom, one of the most irritating in the world, is not lethal, but extremely irritating, and can cause anaphylactic shock. An article from National Geographic dedicated to this species in 2020 revealed its particular mode of action: “If its attack begins with a bite which, thanks to powerful mandibles, will allow it to cling to its victim to sting them several times, fire ants have a stinger similar to that of wasps. It is this physical attribute that will allow it to inject its venom under the skin of its prey”;
  • But its presence could above all modify the ecosystem in Europe, and in particular our agriculture. In an interview for Italian TV, Mattia Menchetti, co-author of the study, explained that this predator causes “a decrease in the diversity of invertebrates and small vertebrates. Thanks to the venom contained in their sting and the colonies that can reach hundreds of thousands of individuals, these ants can impact young, weak or sick animals.

In the United States, the damage they cause to the agricultural sector is estimated to cost $6 billion per year.

Can we stop the invasion?

It is difficult to know at present the extent of the exact presence of this fire ant on European soil… The researchers of the study identified 88 fire ant nests in the province of Syracuse in Sicily, in a fairly localized area. The species has also been spotted in Spain, Finland, the Netherlands… And in France! Scientists’ projections are more worrying. According to them, 7% of the European continent would be suitable for their installation, including half of European cities.

Can we stop the invasion? Yes, if it is possible to eradicate these ants in their nests before they move on. In this fight, New Zealand and Australia announce spending hundreds of millions. Without any guarantee, however, of winning their case: for the Spanish and Italian researchers who studied them, these exotic ants could spread “at an alarming speed across the entire continent”.