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Invasion of red imported fire ants

Posted July. 09, 2018 07:26,   

Updated July. 09, 2018 07:26


During the Korean War, a number of seeds of alien species were introduced to the peninsula along with U.S. military supplies. White heath aster, a type of chrysanthemum, was among those species. Long after the war was over, in the 1980s, it was found that the flower species was flourishing centered around Gangwon and Gyeonggi provinces. The alien plant grew so tenaciously that those of other types were pushed off from their place, which, in turn, simplified and devastated the ecosystem of plants in particular areas. As with white heath aster, ragweed was brought into the country during the Korean War, which was later classified as an invasive plant.

Snakehead fish, a popular food among Koreans, are an invasive introduced species in the United States. The name Snakehead gives you a hint that they prey on all other fish. In July 2002, thousands of juvenile snakeheads were discovered in a small pond in Crofton, Maryland. Bus an City authorities suspected that Asian immigrants had secretly released them that they could hunt to eat for their stamina and energy. They soon poisoned and removed the entire pond, killing the fish.

Around 1,000 red fire ants, native to South America, were first found at Busan's Gamman Port last September. They are one of the world’s worst invaders nominated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The species has a poisonous sting that can cause pain and itching, and even death by shock. Furthermore, it does not only destroy roots of crops but also has devastating impact on reptiles and native ant populations. The red invaders are so viable and prolific that they can survive in a low temperature of -9 degrees Celsius as well as floods and droughts. In particular, they peak between June and September.

Red fire ants were found once again at a container yard in Incheon Port on Friday and Saturday consecutively, which was the sixth infestation of such insects. A queen ant was found for the first time, raising fear because it lays eggs while worker ants don’t. Some concern that the species may have become naturalized and bred in Korea. Any through quarantine measure should have been taken to prevent against any possible breeding of red fire ants as early as last month when larvae were discovered in Pyeongtaek Port. The Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency said on Sunday that the alien red ants are not in the breeding stage in Korea, asking the public including cargo owners to report any case. However, even after such explanation from the authorities was announced, fears of red fire ants still remain unmitigated across the country.

Kwang-Pyo Lee kplee@donga.com