Fire ants threatening millions in damage in B.C.
Colonies of biting, invasive fire ants could be coming to a golf course or farm near you, costing the economy millions a year if their march across the province cannot be stopped. (FOTOLIA)
Colonies of biting, invasive fire ants could be coming to a golf course or farm near you, costing the economy millions a year if their march across the province cannot be stopped.
The spread of this and other "alien" species is so serious the provincial government has declared "Invasive Species Week" starting June 9, announcing $1.6 million to raise awareness and a new "Report-a-Weed" iPhone/Android app that will allow citizen scientists to report invasive sightings.
A study last year commissioned by the British Columbia Ministry of Environment estimated fire ants alone could cost the B.C. economy millions if they become fully established.
Fire ants not only bite, but also build dense colonies in yards and parks, often rendering the areas unusable.
As many as 1,000 invasive plants and animals have established a foothold in the province, including the large-mouth bass, European starling and the yellow-flowering Scotch Broom. They have travelled to BC through the air, in the ballast of ships, and most notably in suitcases, cages and aquariums.
Once released, they can outcompete native plants and animals with disastrous results.
European Zebra mussels, which have blanketed the bottoms of lakes and waterways across the Great Lakes since the 1980s, are not in B.C. but are a concern -- and the spread from recreational boating in particular is a concern.
Boaters are required to "clean, drain and dry" their vessels if they have been in waters affected by the mussels. Boats must then be rinsed with hot water, drained and dried on land for at least 30 days. Failure to clean mussels off boats or equipment could result in a fine of up to $100,000.
"I encourage British Columbians to learn more about these damaging plants and animals and actions that anyone can take to limit their spread," said Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson, adding that British Columbians can reduce the spread by using the new app and taking precautions when boating.
Edited to removed the zebra mussel from the list of species already in B.C.