[Newsmaker] Poisonous fire ants found in Busan, authorities hold emergency meeting

By Kim Da-sol
  • Published : Oct 2, 2017 - 14:27
  • Updated : Oct 2, 2017 - 20:32
Quarantine authorities held an emergency meeting Monday to combat infestations of stinging fire ants, after they were discovered in Busan where a potential nest was found last week.

Authorities inspect a potential fire ant nest at a harbor in the southern port city of Busan, Tuesday. Yonhap

Found for the first time in the South Korea, the species native to South America is known to inflict painful bites that in some cases lead to anaphylactic shock and death. 

According to news reports, workers at a harbor in Busan found 25 fire ants on the asphalt road inside the quay area on Thursday. Following the report, quarantine authorities said they found 1,000 fire ants near what appears to be a nest.

Red imported fire ants, or RIFAs, are 2-6 millimeters in size and coppery-brown in color. They were recently found in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, China and Japan. These ants bite with venom that leave a burning sting.  

The Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency called an emergency inspection and sterilization of quays where containers are unloaded. 

Believing the ants may have been mixed in with cargo coming from habitats in China and elsewhere, the agency also called for the port, which regularly runs shipments with China and Japan, to administer pesticides in and around their container yards.

Authorities said they had yet to find the fire ant queen, adding that it was too early to say that the situation is contained. 

Red imported fire ants, which quarantine authorities assume may have been mixed in with cargo coming from habitats in China, are prompting warnings and countermeasures at ports across the country. Pictured above is a fire ants found in China in 2005. Yonhap

RIFA queens are known to be capable of laying 2,000 to 3,000 eggs per day. 

In 2001, New Zealand suffered an infestation and spent more than $880,000 over two years on eradicating one nest. 

As winged ants can fly distances of more than 10 kilometers with a favorable wind, the ministry said it would comb the harbor’s surroundings to make sure there were no nests.

By Kim Da-sol (