Urgent warning over deadly insects creeping closer to Britain as 'aggressive' threat begins to spread | The Sun

A POTENTIALLY lethal and aggressive insect is heading to Britain, warns new research.

The red fire ant, known for their "painful and irritating" sting, has now spread from South America to Sicily in southern Europe.

The invasive species has a reputation for wrecking eco-systems, agriculture and attacking humans.

But now experts fear the insect could be heading toward the UK, after finding 88 red fire ant nests spread over five hectares of Syracuse in Sicily.

The colonies are located in a suburban area of the city of Syracuse, Sicily, comprising an estuary and a natural park.

Study leader Roger Vila of Spain's Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), said: "It is an isolated area, so it is unlikely that it was the first point of entry to the island."

The team concluded that the entry point must have been a "transit" area with human activity- such as the commercial port of the city of Syracuse.

Analysis of the wind direction indicate that some flying queen ants could have arrived from the north west, where the port of Syracuse is located and where the team has recommended monitoring for the ants.

Study leader Roger Vila of Spain's Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), said: "It is an isolated area, so it is unlikely that it was the first point of entry to the island."

"The results suggest that half of the urban areas in Europe would be climatically suitable for the establishment of this invasive species.

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"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."

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

Study first author Mattia Menchetti said: "The public could play a key role in the detection of S. invicta, considering that it is frequently found in urban and adjacent areas.

"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."

In less than a century, the ant has spread across much of the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, China, Taiwan and Australia, and has only been eradicated in New Zealand.

Its presence in the United States has caused an estimated loss of more than £5 billion per year, while countries including Australia allocate millions to its eradication, but with little success.


BLACK and red fire ants, native to South America, are aggressive insects that were accidentally imported to the US around 40 years ago.

They bite victims with their mouths to get a grip before injecting an alkaloid venom from their tails.

Fire ants use their venom to prey on other invertebrates, but have been known to kill farm animals when food is scarce, scientists say.

One ant is capable of multiple stings within a very short time frame, and a swarm can inflict thousands.

In humans the stings cause painful local swellings, and in rare cases can lead to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

At least 83 people in the US have been killed by fire ant swarms close to their mounds.

But they also attack people inside buildings such as nursing homes and daycare centers, experts warn.

In 1999, the American College Of Physicians reported two elderly patients died after fire ant stings in separate care homes in Mississippi.

A five-day-old baby also ended up in a coma after ants swarmed his crib, but survived.

Tackling an infestation successfully requires killing the queen, otherwise the workers will keep coming back.

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