Invasive Fire Ants

Invasive Ants

Have you seen very tiny red ants that swarm and sting in Saanich?

A few outbreaks of Fire Ants (European and Impressive) have been found in our region as well as several other locations in BC: in the lower mainland and on Vancouver Island.  A provincial action plan is in place including provincial and local governments, Thomson Rivers University, the Invasive Species Council of BC and regional species committees.

European Fire Ant

The European Fire Ant (Myrmica rubra) infestations impact human and animal use of areas such as backyards and parks.  The European Fire Ant is:

  • a non-native, invasive species
  • an aggressive ant that swarms and has a painful sting
  • a species that forms dense colonies such as in lawns, gardens & parks.

Uncommon cases of stings have resulted in allergic reactions requiring medical attention. 

Impressive Fire Ant

The Impressive Fire Ant (Myrmica specioides) has more recently been identified and less is known about its behaviour and control.  The Impressive Fire Ant:

  • behaves similarly to European Fire Ants, though perhaps not as aggressively
  • disperses by flight rather than European Fire Ants that are generally moved around by people (in soil and wood, for example). 

Identification of Invasive Ants

Please note that ant identification is very difficult and verification must be done by experts (as described on the Factsheet below).

Tips to distinguish from other red ant species (such as beneficial native species):

  • Invasive Fire Ants nest in lawns, garden beds, under objects such as a rock or within wood debris.  They do not form mounds, but there may be a small amount of soil disturbance at the nest site.
  • Fire ants swarm rapidly and sting when disturbed (versus the defensive behaviour of non- invasive red ant species).
  • Small (4-5mm), reddish colour; may have darker head.


If you suspect a Fire Ant invasion on your property in Saanich, Saanich Environmental Services can assist you with:

  • sending a specimen for verification
  • treatment options
  • information and
  • ongoing monitoring

In the unlikely event that you suspect an invasion of European or Impressive Fire Ants, and you live in Saanich, please contact:

Saanich Parks


For more information:

Factsheet: European Fire Ants in B.C. [PDF - 813 KB]

BC Inter-ministry Invasive Species Working Group

European Fire Ants in BC (Dr. Rob Higgins, Thomson Rivers University)