Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Empire of the Ants
Invasive stinging insects quietly move into Chilliwack
been said that ants can bring down elephants.
Recent reports indicate that
several areas in BC have become home to European fire ants,
including two locations in Chilliwack.
These aren't the pesky
little picnic ants that you casually flick off. Fire ants
swarm and sting by the hundreds when their nests are disturbed.
Plus, their venom packs a wallop that can leave you in pain for up
to two hours and itching for a week.
In 2010-11, Agriculture Canada sent ant samples that were found in
the Lower Mainland to Dr. Robert J. Higgins, Biological Sciences at
Thompson Rivers University for identification. He later found them
to be European fire ants (Myrmica rubra).
According to a historical overview on Higgins' web site, the insects
were first seen in 1909 in Boston, Massachusetts.
After gaining a foothold in the US, they began to infest areas north
of the 49th parallel, and were eventually seen in the Quebec and
Now, the rust-coloured insects, which measure about one-sixth of an
inch long, have successfully migrated across the country to BC,
where they've built colonies in the nicely manicured lawns and
gardens of Burnaby and Richmond.
In an e-mail to the Voice on Monday, Higgins said he would not give
the exact locations of the Chilliwack colonies, citing privacy
concerns from residents, but did say the City of Chilliwack was
"I tell homeowners and businesses that I will keep sites
confidential unless told otherwise, but we have been given
permission to share information with the City so that they know what
is going on," he said.
"That enables us to do a basic assessment and pass along some
information about the fire ant so that they have an understanding of
what they are up against," explains Higgins. "Even when we can't do
much with control, knowing the enemy helps a bit."
Available literature indicates fire ants tend to be very territorial
and aggressive, especially in the summertime.
According to a report last
week in the Province paper, the problem has
become so bad in at least one Lower Mainland park, that signage is posted warning
people to keep moving or risk being swarmed.
The outlook on getting rid of the ants once you have them is dire.
Higgins says that unless a method of control is found, it's likely
infestations will continue to spread.
When asked about the ants over-wintering on the West Coast, he says
that they handle the milder BC winters with ease.
The community's first line of defense is
vigilance and Higgins advises Chilliwack residents to check all plants
and soil very closely when bringing it onto their property.
"It is easier than getting them out once they are established," he
"The basic message is that there should be no ants associated
with plants or soil what-so-ever. If there are, it should be
returned to source."
If residents think they may have an infestation on their property,
but are unsure, they can send in a sample that Higgins will check.
To learn more, visit Higgins' website
here and get specimen mailing directions
BC Ants on Antweb
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