Samples of the suspected red fire ants found in a Hong Kong's wetland park will be sent to the Chinese mainland, Japan and the Britain for examination, Hong Kong's Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow said Thursday.
Ants bearing features of Solenopsis invicta Buren were found ina vegetated area of the park on Wednesday. The government has set up a special task force to deal with the ants.
"It is a new species of ant in Hong Kong, we need to assess howit would affect our ecology and perhaps also how large an extent it has affected our places," Chow said.
The ants' reproductive power is the same as common ants, and Chow urged the public not to panic. "The only difference is they are more aggressive if you step on them and aggravate them. They bite harder than other ants."
Samples have been taken for examination and the department is investigating the source of the ants and the time of their habitation. Department staff have started disinfecting the affected area.
A contingency plan has been drawn up to deal with the incident.Over 300 officers have been mobilized to patrol country parks and inspect local floral farms in the coming days.
To ensure all pot plants being sent to local farms and markets are free from the pests, all imported plants are inspected and disinfected at a special treatment area in Ta Kwu Ling.
"Since there are very few agricultural activities in Hong Kong,it would not be too difficult for us to control the situation should we find the ants in Hong Kong," Chow added.
If it is confirmed that the species found in the wetland park is not the red fire ant, the government may consider handling the incident in another manner, Chow said.