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‘Electric’ sting fire ants found in France for first time

The invasive species from South America can sting the eyes of domestic pets, causing blindness

‘Little fire ant’ workers are only 1.2 to 1.5mm long, but deliver a disproportionate sting Pic: Raja Sopan Purba / Shutterstock

‘Little fire ants’ – an invasive ant with a sting disproportionate to its tiny size – have been found in France for the first time.

Native to South America, Wasmannia auropunctata has a light-to-golden brown colour and should not be confused with other unrelated ants commonly called ‘fire’ or ‘red’ ants. 

Read more: French hornet attack: how to spot the insects and treat the stings

Nest found in Toulon, Var

One of them was identified in a house in Toulon, Var, this summer, and Olivier Blight, a researcher from Avignon university’s Institut méditerranéen de biodiversité et d’écologie has since found a ‘supercolony’, consisting of separate but socially-connected nests, in an area of 100m around the house.

He has alerted the EU, which will set out a destruction strategy. 

Similar but worse than nettle sting

The ants had previously been found only in Malaga, Spain, but have also been found in the UK. 

Also known as ‘electric’ ants, they have a sting similar to, but worse than, a nettle sting that lasts several hours. 

They can sting the eyes of domestic pets, causing blindness, and they are dangerous to biodiversity, being known to cause a decline in other insect species where they are present.

The workers are only 1.2 to 1.5mm long, yet the ants are nonetheless classed as one of the world’s worst invasive species.

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