South Korean government steps up fight against red fire ants

SEOUL, June 22 (UPI) — The South Korean government announced it would boost efforts to prevent red fire ants detected at major ports from spreading.

In an emergency meeting on Friday, officials said they would carry out preventative quarantine inspection at other ports and international airports.

Hong Nam-ki, government policy coordination minister, who presided the meeting said: “The red fire ants could spread rapidly and it’s important to contain them at the very front line” in a statement.

Since some 1,000 red fire ants were found at a port in Busan in September last year, more have been spotted in other ports in Busan and Incheon.

On Monday, Some 700 red fire ants were found inside concrete cracks at a container yard in Pyeongtaek, according to Yonhap.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said officials have carried out pest control at major ports spotted with nonindigenous red fire ants in order to destroy their colonies and prevent potential spread to outside the ports.

Red fire ants cause damage to agriculture and livestock. When bitten, its venom can cause itchiness and sores to human beings and even severe allergic reactions to some people, according to insect expert and professor Ryu Dong-pyo of Sangji University in a press conference on Friday at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Newsis reported.

Quarantine officials and experts said it’s not likely to see red fire ants further spread to other areas for now as they didn’t find a queen ant yet, but found several female ants that have attempted for mating flights but failed.