Agricultural officials yesterday gave assurances that strict quarantine and control measures are in place to keep the red fire ant from spreading across the country.
"The red fire ant is a harmful species that can be prevented and controlled," said Wang Shoucong, deputy head of the department of crop production of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Red fire ants have recently been found in South China's Guangdong Province. Late January, it appeared in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Wu Xiaoling, from the plant protection and quarantine division of Wang's department, said the ministry issued a notice on January 17, listing the ant among the species that are banned from entry into the country and should not be transported across country.
Guangdong Province has str-engthened the quarantine of products such as greensward, seedlings and flowers so that such products do not carry red fire ants, Wang said.
The province is an important production base of agricultural products such as flowers and vegetables. Large amounts of such products are transported from the province to Hong Kong, Macao and foreign countries.
According to Wang, the red fire ant, native to South American countries such as Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, invaded the United States in 1930, and New Zealand and Australia early this century.
It harms the root, stem, leaf and fruit of crops, is prone to build nests near houses and in electrical apparatus and dams, and stings human being and animals when harassed.
International experiences show the red fire ant can be controlled and even eradicated, Wang said.
At present, experts and agricultural departments have mastered control techniques and there is sufficient reserve of pesticide for killing the ants, Wang said.
According to Chinese Academy of Sciences expert Zhang Runzhi, the red fire ant is one of the top 100 harmful invasive species in the world.
Once stung, people will feel very painful for some time. A tiny number might be allergic, he said, adding that in the United States, about 2 per cent of people stung become allergic.
Therefore, people should not panic about the ant, he said.
Meanwhile, a public housing estate in northern New Territories in Hong Kong has become the first residential area to be infested with red fire ants.
A newly formed advisory group comprising officials and local scientists has been formed and will meet as early as today to formulate a strategy to stamp out the insects in Hong Kong.
The development was reported as the number of red fire ant mounds increased by 83 to a total of 282 across Hong Kong as of yesterday.
Agricultural officials said most of the ant mounds had been destroyed.
Source: China Daily