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Dangerous invasive species already in Europe as climate warms

Dangerous invasive species already in Europe as climate warms

Image source: © canva
Marta Grzeszczuk,
13.09.2023 14:15

Colonies of red fire ants were discovered in Sicily for the first time in Europe. Due to the global warming, they may spread across the continent.

According to a study published in the scientific journal Current Biology, one of the world's most dangerous invasive species has appeared in Europe for the first time. The red fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) has formed a mature population in Sicily, Italy.

The red fire ant could spread across Europe

Scientists warn that red fire ants could spread across the continent thanks to global warming. The climate in half of Europe's urban areas is already suitable for the species, Euronews reports. This could have a devastating and economically costly impact on biodiversity, crops and human health.

As aggressive foragers (species gathering food), red fire ants usually become the dominant ant species when introduced into a new territory. They can displace local ant populations and destroy native plants. They have a venomous sting that can kill or injure frogs, lizards and even small mammals.

The ants can also sting humans, making places such as parks unsafe for children. In a small percentage of people sensitive to their venom, they can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Where do invasive species come from?

According to estimates published in the journal Nature in 2021, fire ants are the fifth most costly invasive species in the world. According to estimates, between 1970 and 2017, they caused almost €20 billion in damage globally.

Red fire ants are native to South America. In less than a century, they have spread via trade throughout most of the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, China, Taiwan and Australia. They travel in infested soil, hay, mulch and construction materials. Only New Zealand has been successful in halting their invasion.

In Europe, fire ants have previously been discovered in products in Spain, Finland and the Netherlands. However, never in the wild, as is the case in Sicily, where 88 nests have already been found. Projections show that Europe's environment will become increasingly suitable for these ants as the climate warms.

Source: euronews.com

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