Tue, Dec 02, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Songshan airport reports finding red fire ant nests

SAFETY CONCERN:An official said the ants, which were first discovered in Taiwan in 2003, possess the ability to sting when under attack and could inflict pain on humans

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

The Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) is infested with red imported fire ants, with numerous nests having been found on the lawns near the runways, the Council of Agriculture said yesterday.

After receiving word on sightings of the ants, council officials on Wednesday last week implemented emergency prevention methods to contain the insects following a meeting with their counterparts at the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and National Red Imported Fire Ant Control Center, the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Deputy Director-General Feng Hai-tung (馮海東) said.

The ant, an invasive species native to South America, were first discovered in Taiwan in 2003 in areas near Taoyuan and Chiayi counties.

Feng said that the ant possesses a stinger at the end of its abdomen, which functions like that of a bee’s — a weapon it uses when aggravated, which could inflict painful pustules on the skin or induce a state of shock.

People should immediately report ants nests to relevant agencies, he said. The ants nests look like a mound and range anywhere from 10cm to 4m in diameter, and any disturbance to the ants would result in the insects pouring out of the nest in large numbers, posing a grave danger to public safety, he said.

Extermination efforts over the past week have included the use of pesticides on the nests, which has an immediate effect on killing the ants, and the placement of a growth-regulating bait, which mainly entices queen ants to curb reproduction, he said.

Since the ants relocate to build a new nest whenever they feel disturbed, the bait is an ideal complement to the pesticides and functions to entice them back to their old nest, he added.

Given the ant’s unique feeding habit, which involves the adult putting food into the mouths of their young for initial digestion before consuming it themselves, the bait also helps to kill worker ants and males, he said.

Feng said that although there is not yet an immediate threat to passengers at the airport, as the nests are mainly located near the runways — which are restricted areas — the ants are prone to moving and residents living nearby should look out for irregular ant activity and nests.

The bureau has asked Taipei City Government to survey the surrounding areas to identify potential sources of infestations, he said.

People who wish to report ant activity can contact the Red Imported Fire Ant Control Center by calling 0800-095-590.

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