Customs officers recently intercepted a shipment of live ants sent to China from France, saying that the alien species could have posed a risk to the ecosystem.
A total of 792 live ants and more than a hundred ant eggs packed into more than 300 test tubes were intercepted and inspected by the Hunan Province Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, news portal thepaper.cn reported on Tuesday.
The package originated in France and the sender did not declare the contents, according to the bureau. The intended recipient was a resident of Changsha, capital of Central China's Hunan Province but customs officials have not yet been able to reach the person, media reported.
The package and the insects will be disposed of by the bureau.
The 10-millimeter-long ants, which are considerably bigger than their Chinese relatives, are a species of common harvester ants that are spread across southern Europe, Russia and Ukraine, according to a Hunan customs official. The species eats seeds and small bugs, is able to adapt itself well to different conditions and has a strong ability to reproduce.
The inspector said that the ants have no natural predators in China, therefore they could pose a serious threat to the country's natural environment and agriculture if they got loose and multiplied. The bureau speculated that the ants were probably destined for someone's personal ant farm.
According to relevant regulations, anyone who brings living alien species into China which may cause an epidemic and threaten human health and the safety of domestic agriculture and forestry, will be fined at least 5, 000 yuan (5.6).