Photo/IllutrationA fire ant found at a container yard of Kobe's Port Island in Chuo Ward on June 16 (Provided by the Environment Ministry)

  • Photo/Illustraion

An estimated 100 fire ants, a venomous invasive alien species, were found and killed at Kobe's Port Island on June 16, according to Environment Ministry officials.

The episode comes about a month after an unknown number of the creatures arrived in Japan stowing away inside a container on a cargo ship from China.

It was the first time the aggressive ants, whose stings can cause potentially fatal anaphylactic shock in humans, have been found in Japan.

The ministry and other parties are investigating the possible link between the discovery in May and the latest sighting.

A queen ant or eggs have not been found.

The fire ants were found milling about on soil spilling out of several cracks in asphalt pavement on June 16 in an off-limits area of a container yard at Port Island. They were found in several locations about 20 to 30 meters from Kobe port's intermediate warehousing area where the container from China had been kept, and about 1 kilometer from a residential district.

After being exterminated, they were identified as fire ants on June 18.

Fire ants, so named because of their exceedingly painful sting, were found for the first time on May 26 in Amagasaki, also in Hyogo Prefecture, where the container from China was opened. The container had been stored at Port Island's container yard between May 20 and 25.

Fliers warning of the ant situation were delivered June 18 by the Kobe city government to 7,500 households on the man-made Port Island.

The ants are reddish in color, and their size varies from 2.5 to 6 millimeters.

Fire ants, whose scientific name is Solenopsis invicta, originated in South America but their habitat is expanding to the United States, China, Australia and other areas. It is difficult to root them out once they establish a colony.

(This article was written by Masatoshi Toda and Emi Iwata.)