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Fire ant queen found in Osaka, triggering nationwide harbor alert

Latest insect eruption raises specter of long, costly extermination fight

The remains of a fire ant, thought to be a queen. (Photo courtesy of the Environment Ministry)

TOKYO -- The latest in a rash of stinging fire ant discoveries in Japan has come from the Port of Osaka, where remains appearing to be a queen and a potential nest were found, prompting warnings and countermeasures at ports across Japan as authorities fear widespread infestations.

Red imported fire ants, or RIFAs, bite with venom that leaves a burning sting, and in some cases can induce shock and kill their victims. They can wipe out local ant populations and take over their nests. Japan's Environment Ministry has marked them as an invasive species since 2005. They have cropped up in or near a number of Japanese ports this and last month.

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