Ron Sanders, CAMBRIDGE (WBZ) ―
Stinging fire ants have invaded a couple of yards in Cambridge. Experts say that's a first for Massachusetts. Their sting can cause anaphylactic shock in allergic humans.
"I am not susceptible to anaphylactic shock so I don't recommend anybody else trying this but right now, I've got multiple stings on my hand," said George Williams, Staff Entomologist for Environmental Health Services, demonstrating the species' aggressiveness.
Williams told WBZ the Northern Fire Ants, also known as European Fire Ants, or Myrmica rubra, have invaded two yards on Bellis Circle in Cambridge.
"This is a new development. Typically, this species was staying in landscapes that are away from the home," said the pest control expert.
They are usually found in marshy areas near a water source.
Gary Alpert, Ph.D, Harvard's resident entomologist, is documenting the discovery of the invasive fire ant colonies with his high definition camera. He is also gathering information on the invaders for a field guide to ants Yale University Press will be putting out.
Aplert said although they were reported near Fresh Pond a hundred years ago, this could be what he calls a second wave.
"This is probably unique for Massachusetts." Dr. Alpert said once the females mate, they drop their wings and walk to a new nest, spreading from one yard to the next.
"Think of it like a cancer. It doesn't metastasize, it's like one big tumor that just keeps spreading and spreading and spreading."
Adam Schorn is one of the homeowners who's been invaded by the stinging fire ants.
"It's really a sharp little bite, and it does really burn," he explained.
The two girls next door, 7-year-old Gemma and 5-year-old Simona Culotta can't even play in their yard.
Their father was glad to see Dr. Alpert and George Williams there Friday.
He reached down to swat one of the ants as he spoke with WBZ.
"It pleases me. I'm hoping that we can get rid of these ants," he said.
The species has been found in Maine.
Tom Culotta suspects hostas former neighbors brought him from their Bethel, Maine cottage may have carried the fire ants.
Dr. Aplert is hoping to bait them.
He said the chemical that will be tried to exterminate them is specific to fire ants and will not harm beneficial insects.
"There has not been yet an effective study on how to control this particular species," he said, adding so far, there's no evidence the aggressive fire ants have gotten inside homes, but they potentially could.