As with any problem affecting Hong Kong, the mainland and Taiwan—which in October discovered it too had fire ants—fingers were inevitably pointed. Hong Kong officials complained that Guangdong authorities had left them in the dark; mainland farmers blamed Taiwan for foisting the little terrors on them in the first place, likely stowed away in shipments of recyclable trash. For Hong Kong, news of a fire ant invasion on the eve of the high-traffic Lunar New Year holiday was received with dismay, especially since it meant canceling shipments of traditional holiday plants from the mainland. The city's Health Minister, Dr. York Chow, announced a 300-person search-and-destroy mission and advised the public not to panic, saying the fire ants were quite similar to a common local species, only "more aggressive ... [and they] bite harder."
This horror film may well have a sequel. The winged queen ants can fly up to 15 km to start a new colony—which means that eradication efforts in Hong Kong likely will be ineffective without cooperation from the mainland. Says Dr. Richard Corlett, a Hong Kong University biodiversity expert, "There is no border patrol for ants."