Government tackles fire-ant menace

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2007, 12:00am

Updated at 6.46pm:
The government would continue to eradicate red fire-ants in Hong Kong ? after more than 3,000 ant mounds were found in the past year ? Secretary for Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao Sau-tung said on Wednesday.

She told the Legislative Council that 3,054 fire-ant mounds were found between May last year and the end of last month.

These were in many districts ? including Lantau Island, Yuen Long, Tai Po, Kam Tin, Tin Shui Wai, Tseung Kwan O, Fan Ling, Sha Tin, Ta Kwu Ling, Sheung Shui and Sham Shui Po.

?In general, between several to a dozen or so ant mounds were found in each infested site,? explained Dr Liao. ?However, over 2,700 ant mounds were found on several pieces of government land with a total area of about 30 hectares in Tseung Kwan O in April [this year].?

In January 2005, fire-ant nests were first found in northern districts of Hong Kong. Later, several hundred mounds were also discovered in other parts of the territory. There were also reports of ant hills in Macau.

This caused some alarm as the ants are more aggressive than other species and have a painful sting. Once one ant attacks, others will follow suit, experts say.

But the environment secretary told Legco red fire ants had only been ?occasionally? found in Hong Kong since 2005.

?Once red fire-ant mounds are found, relevant government departments will take prompt action to eradicate them,? she emphasised.

Since the first detection of red fire ants two years ago, the health, welfare and food Bureau had set up an inter-departmental action group to deal with them.

?The action group comprises members from various government departments and relevant agencies,? Dr Liao said.

This included Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD); Food and Environmental Hygiene Department; Department of Health; and other departments.

?With regard to the control, prevention and eradication work, all government departments are responsible for inspecting the venues and premises under their purview and participating in the control and prevention work against red fire ants,? she said.

Dr Liao said the AFCD had issued a technical note on red imported fire ant control methods to departments and pesticide application service providers.

?With regard to the control and prevention of red fire ants, the AFCD will also regularly remind the departments to check the venues and premises.?

She said that after the first discovery of red fire ants in 2005, the government produced a publicity leaflet telling the public how to handle the ants. It also provided health advice on stings.

Controlling the spread of these ants had usually been carried out through use of pesticides but the latest research suggested natural enemies of the ant could be introduced.