The red fire ant is establishing itself in Europe and could reach Spain

A study published in the journal Current Biology and led by the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), a joint center of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), has identified 88 red fire ant nests covering approximately 5 hectares nearby are distributed in the city of Syracuse, in Sicily, Italy.

These are invasive colonies that, according to the study’s genetic analyses, could come from China or the USA, where it is also an invasive species. This work was led by Roger Vila, IBE scientists, with Mattia Menchetti First author, INPhINIT “la Caixa”, PhD student at the same institution, worked with the participation of CREAF, the University of Parma and the University of Catania.

The ecological models carried out show alarming predictions about the colonization of this ant in Europe

The ecological models carried out as part of the study show alarming predictions about the colonization of this ant in Europe and its possible spread throughout the continent, which could be favored by climate change.

High impact

The red fire ant Solenopsis invictaIt is an invasive species from South America This has major impacts on ecosystems, agriculture and human health. Its bite is painful and irritating and can cause pustules and allergic reactions, potentially causing anaphylactic shock.

In less than a century, this ant has become established throughout much of the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, China, Taiwan, and Australia, and has only been eradicated in New Zealand. Its presence in the United States causes an estimated loss of approximately 6 billion euros per yearwhile countries like Australia devote millions to its eradication, still without success.

Arrival in Italy

Prior to this study, specimens of S. undefeated in products from Import to Spain, Finland and Hollandbut its establishment on the continent was never confirmed.

The study concludes that the detected population likely originated from China or the United States, but the route of entry is unknown.

Through genetic analysis, the study concludes that the discovered population likely originated in China or the United States, but the route of entry is unknown. The colonies are located in a Suburban area of ​​the city of Syracuse consisting of a river mouth and a natural park. Since it is an isolated area, it is considered unlikely that it was the first access point to the island. The team concludes that the entry point must have been a transit area with human activity, such as the commercial port of the city of Syracuse.

In fact, analyzes of wind direction suggest that some flying ant queens may have arrived from the northwest, where the port of Syracuse is located and where the team recommends monitoring this invasive species.

Possible invasion of Europe

Using distribution models developed in collaboration with CREAF and based on current environmental conditions, the study concludes that it is an invasive species could be founded on 7% of the continentapproximately.

The conclusions show that half of the urban areas in Europe would be suitable for construction due to their environmental conditions. Like big cities Barcelona, ​​​​Rome, London or Paris You may find their activity altered by this invasive species, which can disrupt people’s lifestyles due to its abundance and aggressiveness.

In large cities such as Barcelona, ​​​​Rome, London or Paris, the activity of this invasive species could change

Mediterranean coastal cities that are well connected by seaports are best suited S. undefeated, which would promote its spread. If climate change predictions are taken into account, the scenario worsens significantly as more of Europe would be suitable for the species.

“Coordinated Efforts Early detection and quick action in the region are the key to successfully tackling this new threat before it spreads uncontrollably,” warns Roger Vila, principal investigator at IBE in the Butterfly Diversity and Evolution group, who led the study.

These ants can be recognized by their painful stings and the characteristic mounds of their nests.

Mattia Menchetti, IBE researcher

“Citizen science can play a key role in detection S. undefeated, as it is commonly found in urban and peri-urban areas. It is possible to recognize these ants based on their painful bites and the characteristic mounds of their nests, although confirmation by an expert is essential,” explains Mattia Menchetti, INPhINIT “la Caixa” researcher at IBE and first author of the study.

Given the ability of this invasive species to spread and the suspected existence of an unknown initial point of introduction, the team recommends expanding monitoring to a larger geographic scale.


Menchetti M et al. “The fire ant Solenopsis invicta is established in Europe. Current Biology.

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