Fire Ants force CP to incinerate Arbutus rail ties

CP Rail will begin incinerating old railway ties from the Arbutus Corridor next week in an attempt to control the European Fire Ant.

European Fire Ant has made its way to almost every district in the Lower Mainland

"On a warm day it's going to look like an ant volcano exploded out of the ground," says invasive species expert on European Fire Ants. (Sean McCann)

CP Rail will begin incinerating old railway ties from the Arbutus Corridor next week in an attempt to control the European Fire Ant.

The invasive species has been causing problems in B.C., with reports they have now made their way into virtually every district in the Lower Mainland.

"On a warm day it's going to look like an ant volcano exploded out of the ground. That's how aggressive they are," says Jennifer Grenz, project manager of the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver.

Research has also shown that one of its relatives, the Impressive Fire Ant, has been linked to runway delays at the Vancouver International Airport where birds swarming to eat the ants are crashing into planes. 

In a bid to stop their spread, CP is burning the soil and the old railway ties from the former community gardens in the Arbutus Corridor. 

Aggressive behaviour

The European fire ant can sting and cause painful welts and swelling, and also destroy gardens. (Sean McCann)

The ants are a problem because of their incredibly aggressive behaviour. 

"When you step on the top of the nest you may not notice anything but they'll quickly come boiling up to the surface in response to the disturbance and swarm up your legs and that's when people get stung,
 says Robert Higgins, who studies the ecology of ants in B.C. at Thompson Rivers University. 

For now, the best advice is stopping the spread of this invasive species. 

"CP is being very responsible in that they're burning the soil as well as incinerating railway ties in hopes of mitigating spread," Grenz says. 

With files from Stephanie Mercier

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