We knew this day would come’: One of world’s most invasive species reaches Europe

Sep 11, 2023, 1:43 PM

Shown here is a close-up of a red fire ant, an invasive ant species that has spread around the worl...

Shown here is a close-up of a red fire ant, an invasive ant species that has spread around the world. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Rorabaugh

(CNN) — The red fire ant, one of the world’s most invasive species, has been found in Europe for the first time, according to a new study.

The imported ant, which has the scientific name Solenopsis invicta, is native to South America but has spread throughout much of the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, China, and Australia over the past century.

These insects can be aggressive when disturbed and they have a painful sting, which is irritating to the skin and can cause allergic reactions. The ant can also damage crops and local ecosystems.

Researchers said they had identified 88 red fire ant nests spread over 5 hectares near the city of Syracuse in Sicily, Italy.

“S. invicta is one of the worst invasive species. It can spread alarmingly quickly,” said lead study author Mattia Menchetti, a researcher at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Spain, in a statement.

“Finding this species in Italy was a big surprise, but we knew this day would come,” Menchetti said.

While red fire ants had been discovered in imported products in Spain, Finland and the Netherlands, a colony had never been confirmed before this study, the authors said.

The colonies were found in a suburban area of Syracuse. It was unclear how or when the fire ants got there. The researchers behind the study believe the insects must have arrived at a transit point with lots of human activity, such as the city’s port. Local people told the scientists that ant stings had increased since 2019.

The study suggested that wind could have transported flying queen ants from the northwest of Syracuse, where the commercial port is located.

Genetic analysis of the ants revealed that they had most likely spread from the United States or China, where Solenopsis invicta is also an invasive species. The ants could soon spread all over Europe, the researchers warned, since 7% of the continent — including large urban areas like Barcelona, Rome, London and Paris — has a climate that’s suitable for the species, according to a model made by the study authors.

The study was published Monday in the scientific journal Current Biology.

Invasive species cost the world at least $423 billion every year as they drive plant and animal extinctions, threaten food security and exacerbate environmental catastrophes across the globe, according to a United Nations- backed report released last week.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

World News

woman holds child in a hallway...

By Candice Madsen, KSL Podcasts

Utah’s Afghan arrivals stuck in legal limbo

Nearly two years after they arrived in the U.S., many Afghans who fled persecution still face an uncertain future in this country. That’s because the documents that allow them to live and work lawfully will soon expire.

4 days ago

Russell Brand leaves the Troubabour Wembley Park theater in northwest London after performing a com...

Jill Lawless

YouTube suspends Russell Brand from making money off the streaming site after sex assault claims

YouTube says Russell Brand will no longer make money from the video streaming site after several women made allegations of sexual assault against the comedian-turned influencer.

4 days ago

FILE - In this photo released on Aug. 11, 2022, by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Foreign Ministry s...

Jon Gambrell

Official says 5 prisoners sought by the US in a swap with Iran have flown out of Tehran

Five prisoners sought by the U.S. in a swap with Iran have flown out of Tehran.

5 days ago

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during the...

Kim Tong-Hyung and Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press

Kim Jong Un discussed arms cooperation with Russian defense minister, North Korean state media says

North Korean state media says leader Kim Jong Un held discussions with Russia’s defense minister on strengthening “strategic and tactical coordination” between the countries’ militaries.

7 days ago

La Sambuy's chairlift, pictured here during warmer months.
Mandatory Credit:	Colin Michael Baker/Al...

Maya Szaniecki, CNN

French ski resort closes permanently because there’s not enough snow

Winter is coming. And for yet another ski resort in France, that means facing up to the reality that there isn’t enough snow to carry on.

7 days ago

French President Emmanuel Macron has said the French ambassador to Niger is being 'held hostage.'

Dalal Mawad and Chris Liakos, CNN

French ambassador is being ‘held hostage at the French embassy’ in Niger, says Macron

The French ambassador to Niger and other French diplomats are “literally being held hostage at the French embassy,” according to French president Emmanuel Macron.

8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

rodeo contestant on a saddle bronc...


Get Ready for the Days of ‘47 Rodeo!

The Days of '47 Rodeo is a series of events everyone in the family can enjoy, with world-class rodeo contestants vying for the gold medal.

Electric LED Lightbulb Change In Light At Home...

Lighting Design

How to Know When to Upgrade Your Lighting

This guide explores indicators that suggest it’s time for a lighting upgrade with tips to make an informed decision when you’re ready to buy. 

Brunette guy in headphones playing games on his desktop computer...

PC Laptops

Looking For a New Computer? Use This Desktop Buying Guide

Choosing a new desktop computer can come with a lot of questions, so we created this desktop buying guide.

We knew this day would come’: One of world’s most invasive species reaches Europe