The European Fire Ant is an aggressive, temperate ant species that originates in Europe (latitudes from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia and longitudes from Ireland to the western Chinese border). In North America, it was introduced to the Boston area circa 1900 and reported in Quebec in 1915, and is now found in Ontario and the Maritimes (Wetterer and Radchenko 2011). It was confirmed in British Columbia in 2010 by Robert Higgins, and is now reported from Burnaby, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Courtenay (Vancouver Island), Delta, District of North Vancouver, Maple Ridge, Naramata, New Westminster, Oak Bay (Vancouver Island), Richmond, Surrey, Pitt Meadows , UBC, Vancouver, West Vancouver, Victoria (Vancouver Island). The cities of Vancouver and Chilliwack appear to have the greatest number in independent infestations. European fire ants have been reported in community gardens, private gardens, botanical gardens, parkland and backyards. Significantly, the presence of this species in Courtenay represents "the highest latitude for this species in North America" (Higgins 2015).
Wetterer and Radchenko (2011) provide the following insight into this species in North America: "Most North American records of Myrmica rubra...date from the last ten years, suggesting these North American populations are expanding. There appear to be no geographic barriers that would prevent M. rubra from spreading across the US and Canada, from coast to coast." These authors also indicate that a new strain of this species has recently been introduced to North America, which may account for its increased spread in the last ten years.
The European Fire Ant is a small red ant species that exhibits swarming and stinging behaviour when disturbed. There are many queens in a nest (average of 15 queens in nests of 1000 workers (Elmes 1974)), and many nests can occur in a supercolony. Higgins (2012) reports "4 nests within 1 sq metre in the backyard of one North Vancouver residence in June of 2011".
The global distribution of this ant has been reported by Wetterer and Radchenko (2011). Its spread through the state of Maine is documented in Groden et al. 2005. A Master's thesis reviewing the biology of this ant and associated control efforts was recently completed by Susan Horton (2011).
Horton (2011) indicates that this species does not appear to cross paved streets. Spread appears to be landscaping and potted plants. .
Note Authors: Robert Higgins (Thompson Rivers University) and Rose Klinkenberg (E-Fauna BC).
Read more about the European Fire Ant in BC by Robert Higgins.
Locations of European Fire Ants in BC, by Robert Higgins.
Read an article on the European Fire Ant in BC by Rob Higgins in the Newsletter of the Entomological Society of British Columbia (Scroll to page 22).
View a slide show on this species in BC by Robert Higgins.