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Invasive fire ants begin spread in Europe

The shocking discovery of the infamous red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, established in Europe.

A study today by Mattia Menchetti and six other researchers confirms a population of Solenopsis invicta, the red imported fire ant, in Sicily. The species is best known from the United States where it is a major agricultural pest and nuisance in the southern states; it originates from South America and has spread to many other countries besides the US, such as Mexico, China, Taiwan, Australia, and parts of the Caribbean. More records exist in regions such as Africa, but establishment is less clear.

At least 88 nests are known in Sicily, and the population contains polygynous colonies, meaning that they have many queens each. The species is strongly suited for subtropical living, and thus may thrive in many parts of the highly interconnected Mediterranean. Future environmental changes will likely make more parts of Europe suitable; only 7% of analyzed land is currently at risk, but the number is projected to climb to over 30% by 2090.

The study can be read here. Also see this recent record of Solenopsis invicta in Sicily from a user on the citizen science platform iNaturalist.


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