중앙데일리

No more fire ants or queen found in Ansan

Oct 10,2018
Red fire ants collected from a warehouse in Ansan, Gyeonggi, on Tuesday. [YONHAP]
Quarantine authorities in Ansan, Gyeonggi, confirmed they have not found additional red fire ants or a queen at the warehouse where 5,900 of the venomous insects were found on Monday.

“We quarantined and completed fumigating the area at 8:30 p.m. Monday,” an Ansan city official told reporters Tuesday. “We have not found additional red fire ants since then.”

The ants in Ansan were first sighted around 10:30 a.m. Monday by workers who found them inside a cargo container at the warehouse. Ministry of Environment officials dispatched to the warehouse on the same day confirmed that they were red fire ants. No queen ant has been found.

Solenopsis invicta, or red fire ants, range in size from 2 to 6 millimeters (0.08 to 0.24 inches) and are found in 26 countries, including Australia, China and the United States. Their stings can cause a burning sensation and lead to itchy sores.

People with allergic reactions to their venom can go into life-threatening shock. Over 80,000 cases of red fire ant stings are reported each year in the United States and around 100 of them result in death.

The cargo container in Ansan arrived at the Port of Incheon on Sept. 11 from Guangdong Province in China. It stayed at the port for nearly a month before it was transported to the warehouse in Ansan early Monday morning. Officials inspected the warehouse where the cargo container had stayed in Incheon and found some 30 red fire ants on Monday and an additional 55 on Tuesday. They quarantined the area. All of the ants found at the Port of Incheon were also confirmed to be worker ants.

“Related government agencies will decide what measures to take from here,” an Environment Ministry official told reporters.

Monday’s sighting was the eighth discovery of the ants in Korea since September 2017, when around 1,000 were spotted in the southern port city of Busan.

At least two queen ants have been found in the previous discoveries, confirming that the species have reproduced in Korea. Unlike worker ants, queens can lay up to 1,500 eggs a day. The presence of one can signify the existence of a fire ant colony.

Fire ants, including a queen, were found at a construction site in northern Daegu in September on landscape rocks imported from China to decorate the grounds of an apartment complex.

In July, a red fire ant queen was found at a storage yard for cargo containers at the Port of Incheon, alongside 16 larvae and some 6,100 worker ants.

No queen ant was located at the warehouse in Ansan as of Tuesday morning, according to the city government. Quarantine officials were reported to be inspecting the area throughout the day for any signs of a queen.

Repeated discoveries of these infestations have exposed flaws in Korea’s quarantine process at shipping terminals. Officials are physically capable of inspecting only around 5 percent of all cargo containers, due to the sheer volume of trade that comes through Korea. They rely on voluntary reports of fire ant infestations by cargo owners to prevent the insects from spreading here.

BY ESTHER CHUNG, CHOI MO-RAN [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]


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