Fire ants are on the march in Hong Kong
Numbers of the venomous South American insect have more than doubled in New Territories hotspot in the first three months of this year according to the Lands Department
A total of 1,500 red imported fire ant nests were identified by the Lands Department in Tseung Kwan O in the first three months of this year, compared with 600 seen during the whole of 2016.
The venomous insect is an invasive species native to South America whose stings can cause localized blisters to whole body allergic reactions such as anaphylactic shock, and, occasionally, death.
Those seen in the New Territories districts of Tiu Keng Leng and Tseung Kwan O had built mounds as high as 20 centimeters, Tai Kung Pao reported. Thousands of ants emerged from the ground after a reporter poked a mound located near Pak Shing Kok Road with a stick.
Other mounds were identified near exit A of Lohas Park MTR station, the intersection of Chi Shin Street and Tong Yin Street, Ocean Shores near Tong Yin Street, Tseung Kwan O Salt Water Pumping Station, and The Wings IIIB near Wan Po Road.
The Lands Department said it had carried out eradication work twice in the district so far this year, Oriental Daily reported.
Chan Kai-wai, a Sai Kung district councilor, said he was stung on the leg by fire ants last year and it remained inflammed for some time. Lawmaker Ray Chan Chi-chuen urged the government to devise a comprehensive plan to tackle the situation.
Highly aggressive, fire ants swarm their victims and bite en masse. In the US alone, 85 people have died from fire ant bites. The dramatic consequences of a full-scale fire ant invasion are well documented there. Fire ants first spread to the US in the 1930s and are now entrenched across most of the southern states of the country, which spends US$7 billion a year on medical treatment, damage and control in affected areas.