The dreaded “little fire ant” detected in France for the first time

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They are only 1.5mm long but pose a major threat to humans and the environment.

Little fire ants, considered one of the worst invasive species in the world and capable of inflicting powerful bites, have been detected for the first time in France as the country worries about the rise of tropical pests due to climate change .

The very first invasive colony of tiny insects, native to South America, was detected last month at a residence in Toulon on the French Riviera. The only other place in Europe where they have been detected is in Malaga, Spain.

Also known as electric ants because of their painful sting, which is stronger than that of a nettle and lasts up to three hours, they can cause blindness in pets such as cats and dogs pitted around the eyes.

Olivier Blight, a researcher at the University of Avignon’s Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology and the first to formally identify the pest, said it was likely introduced in a shipment of “plants”.

“We were already dealing with a super colony,” he said, adding that it had spread to the surrounding area.

“It has just been identified but it has been there for about four or five years because there are already several hundred thousand, even millions of individuals on one hectare,” he told Le Figaro.

Although he moves slowly, Wasmannia auropunctata – scientific name for the ginger insect – is very invasive and its population can reach 90 million individuals per acre.

“Its strength is its numbers,” said Mr Blight, adding that little fire ants can multiply faster than other species because they mix sexual and asexual reproduction, as queens produce clones without the need for fertilization. . They can also live in trees or on the ground.

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