Central Chinese customs have said they recently seized over 1,000 live ants from a parcel from Britain, the latest of such seizures fuelled by the rising fashion for exotic pets in China.
Customs officials from Changsha, capital of Hunan province, said the harvester ants, sealed in test tubes together with nutrient solution, were probably mailed into China as pets, Xinhua news agency reported.
They included 37 black-and-red queen ants, with a body length of about 1.4 cm, and a large number of worker ants and eggs.
They were identified as harvester ants, which are gaining popularity among China's pet lovers as they have a beautiful appearance, fast reproduction and are easy-to-raise.
Live insects are banned from entering China via mail, and officials said the illegal mailing of the non-native ant species could pose a threat to the country's eco-system.
Changsha customs said they would destroy the ant parcels according to law.
China's booming e-commerce is contributing to the fad for exotic pets including snakes, insects and lizards, which has been blamed for fueling the smuggling of foreign and sometimes endangered species.
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