The European Fire Ant of the Pacific Northwest
The European fire ant is a nasty pest that can be found all over Europe and in some parts of North America and Asia. They are now found on southern Vancouver Island. They are mainly red in color, with slightly darker pigmentation on the head.
The ants live under stones, fallen trees, and in soil. They can be very aggressive ants and will often attack instead of running away and they are equipped with a stinger that can deliver a burning sting.
Their colonies can have up to one hundred queens per nest. These queens will gather together after their nuptial flight and will form a nest and lay their eggs in it. The queens can live up to 15 years or more.
The European fire ant is an invasive species that was introduced around 1900 into the Boston area. It was reported in Quebec in 1915. Perhaps about 40 years ago it began to significantly expand its range and was reported in southern Ontario. In the past 15 years it has moved into the Maritimes and has started to show up on the BC coast area.
While other ants in British Columbia can be aggressive and bite, they are usually just an annoyance and encountered as single or a few ants. The European fire ant, however, swarms rapidly when disturbed, and stings repeatedly.