European & Impressive Fire Ants
Invasive Species Action Plan
To mitigate the significant infrastructure, ecological and economic implications of invasive species, Richmond City Council adopted the Invasive Species Action Plan in January 2016. The City has been proactively addressing emergent invasive species on City lands and is a demonstrated leader in invasive species response within the region. The Plan provides guidance on setting priorities, establishing a consistent approach, and delivering public outreach and engagement.
What are European Fire Ants?
The European fire ant (Myrmica rubra) is native to Europe and Asia and was first introduced to eastern North America in the 1900s. A newer alien invader in our region, the ants were first recorded in B.C. in 2010, and have since been discovered in isolated locations throughout the Lower Mainland.
Fire Ant Characteristics
It is important to note that there are many species of ants, including red ones, which are native to our region. Please do not assume that any red ant you see is a European fire ant. European fire ants can be very difficult to identify, even for a trained eye with a hand lens. For help identifying, please refer to a fire ant expert.
Fire ants have the following distinct characteristics:
- Small in size and red in colour
- Constricted "waist" has two segments (most native species have only one)
- Two backward-point spines on the middle body section, visible only with a magnifying glass
- Nests are built in soil under rocks, wood or other debris (nests are not large soil mounds)
- Usually very abundant, with 10–12 nests in a 10" by 10" area
The fire ant is capable of inflicting a painful, burning sting. Reaction to their sting varies, though typically people experience a burning sensation and the bite area will inflame and remain sore for a few hours or days. If you experience a strong reaction, call Healthlink BC at 8-1-1 for symptom advice.
Why are Fire Ants a Problem?
The European fire ant is an aggressive, swarming ant that can deliver a painful sting when disturbed by people, pets and wildlife that wander into their territory. If a colony moves into a park, they may impact the recreational use of the park, and may also threaten native ants in the area.
What Can Residents do to Reduce the Spread of Fire Ants?
The following are the steps you can take to help ensure that fire ants do not spread throughout Richmond:
- Inspect all your purchased plants, soil and wood materials for ants or other insects.
- Do not purchase anything that carries insects, weeds or other foreign material that you are not familiar with, or feel does not belong on the product you are purchasing.
- Report any findings directly to the retail manager to help them investigate their inventory.
- Do not share plants or garden materials, including compost, that carry ants, insects or weeds with them.
- Learn about the European fire ant and how to properly control the species. Improper control techniques will cause a fire ant infestation to spread and worsen.
How Can We Get Rid of Fire Ants?
Once established, European fire ants can be a very difficult pest to manage, and insecticides/pesticides do not work on this type of ant at this time. If you suspect that you have an infestation of fire ants on your property, the first thing you should do is confirm their identity.
While there is no certain way to eradicate the fire ant, baits appear to offer some limited promise.
Fire Ant Deterrents
This ant loves moisture. It likes tall grass, well irrigated lawns, raised garden beds, and the ground under lawn clutter (e.g. children's play structures, stored BBQ tanks, etc). Minimizing watering and keeping your property clutter-free may help prevent the spread of the ant.
It also likes heat, which can come from paving stones, ornamental stones and landscaping wood. These items warm during the day and hold that heat overnight, making them a better nesting site than open areas. Consider placing gravel immediately behind landscaping ties for the same purpose.
Coordinated Community Approach
Coordinate with your neighbours. One homeowner working alone is unlikely to see results, as new ant colonies will invade from adjacent properties. Talk to your neighbours about the coordinated use of baits.