A fire ant has been found in a container unloaded at the Oi cargo terminal at the Port of Tokyo, the Environment Ministry said Thursday, confirming the venomous and highly invasive species has entered the Kanto region following discoveries at ports in western Japan, including queen ants.
The container arrived at the terminal on June 27 after leaving China’s Guangdong province and passing through Hong Kong. A suspicious ant was found in the container on Monday after it was returned to the terminal empty after cargo was delivered to its owner in neighboring Chiba Prefecture.
The ant was killed immediately with hot water. The ministry confirmed Thursday that it was a fire ant. The reddish-brown ants with blackish-red bellies are native to South America and known for a sting that can cause anaphylaxis in some people.
Fire ants are feared to be spreading after they were first discovered in May in a container that arrived at Kobe port and was unloaded in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, which borders the city of Osaka.
The ants have since been found at Nagoya port in Yatomi, Aichi Prefecture, in containers originating from Guangzhou, China, and at Osaka port. The queen ants were found at Osaka and Kobe ports.