Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), which has started its contracted field research activities for Okinawa Prefecture to control nine kinds of alien invasive ants, announced on June 26, “Intrusion of any Specified Invasive Alien Species (IAS) has not been confirmed,” including venomous fire ants, one of the four Specified IAS.
Dr. Masahi Yoshimura from OIST commented, “It will be important to keep monitoring in coordination among municipal administration, related agencies, and citizens without prejudice,” with some caution on fire ants intruding from Taiwan and China known as their habitats.
Fire ants are reddish brown with reddish black on their belly parts, and their sizes are varied from 2.5mm to 6mm. Since fire ants resemble to another specified IAS, Akakamiari (Solenopsis geminata) that are recorded to have bitten some people in Motobu and Ie Island in 1967, OIST is going to compile some documents to specify how to distinguish these two species.
According to Dr. Yoshimura, fire ants like to choose agricultural lands, parks, grass fields for nesting, and they have a habit of building dorm-shaped soil nests with 25-60 cm diameter and with 15-50cm height. If you are stung by a fire ant, there will be a severe pain like burn, and sometimes leading to death due to allergic reaction. However, unless you step on their nests or play tricks on them, it will be rare for fire ants to attack you. In case you find them, you are advised never to touch them and report to Okinawa Prefecture or Ministry of Environment without delay.
Fire ants are originally from South America, but have been developed their habitation in Asia Pacific Rim nations and last month, they were found in Hyogo Prefecture, the first time detection inside Japan.
*Another similar article is also on Okinawa Times dated on June 27.