European Fire Ant

The European fire ant (Myrmica rubra) is native to Europe and Asia and were first introduced to eastern North America in the 1900s. The ants were first recorded in BC in 2010 and have since been discovered in isolated locations throughout the Lower Mainland.

Fire ant characteristics

It is important to note that European fire ants look very similar to our native ant species and are therefore difficult to identify. Fire ants are small, reddish, with two backward-pointing spines on the middle body section, visible only with a magnifying glass. The constricted "waist" has two segments: most native species have only one.

Fire ant identification service is available free of charge. All you need to do is collect some samples and ship them. Click here for more information on how to collect and send samples. Your personal information, as well as the location of any positively identified fire ant colonies, will be kept confidential.

The ant can deliver a painful sting when disturbed by people or pets. Reaction to their sting varies, though typically people experience a burning sensation and the bite area will inflame and remain sore for a few hours or days. If you experience a stronger reaction, call Healthlink BC at 8-1-1 for symptom advice.

What to do if you have an infestation?

Once established, European fire ants are challenging to manage. Insecticides (pesticides) do not work on these ants. If you suspect that you have an infestation of fire ants on your property, the first thing you should do is confirm their identity. Fire ant identification service is available free of charge. Click here for more information on how to collect and send samples.

One of the most common ways of spreading this ant is through the movement of contaminated soil, mulch and garden plants. Don't move soil, mulch or plants from areas where there are fire ants. Check that landscaping supplies you purchase or bring to your property are not contaminated with European fire ants. Don't share plants or garden materials, including compost that you suspect may contain fire ants. Other steps you can take include:

  • making your property less favourable to fire ants by avoiding or minimizing lawn and garden watering, and removing objects that trap heat and moisture;
  • baiting with boric acid (a 2% solution is recommended, more info here), and
  • coordinate with your neighbours to ensure treated areas are not recolonized.

The City is working with the Province and other organizations, such as the Invasive Species Council of BC (ISCBC), on developing treatment options and preventing the further spread of these invasive species. For more information, visit

More Information

Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver – European Fire Ants
Invasive Species Council of BC – European Fire Ants
Dr. Robert Higgins, Thompson Rivers University Research

Contact Information

Frances Ramsay
Environmental Technician
Phone: 604-983-7384

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