Fire Ant Fears Boost Japan Pesticide Maker to 30-Year High

  • Japan finds poisonous, potentially fatal pest for first time
  • Shares of pesticide maker Fumakilla, exterminator Sanix surge

Despite the threat of North Korean missiles, seismic instability and economic malaise, a smaller but potentially fatal danger has been dominating news in Japan: the fire ant.

Concerns over the spread of the poisonous pest, found for the first time in the country this year, have made national headlines and boosted shares in pesticide maker Fumakilla Ltd. to their highest level since the nation’s 1980s asset bubble.

Fire ants in Chuo, Osaka.

Photographer: The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Photo

The threat from the fire ants intensified this week when the Ministry of the Environment confirmed a queen fire ant was found in the fourth infestation it discovered to date. The insects are native to South America, but have spread to Asia over the years through cargo.

Fumakilla shares have gained a third since authorities first discovered the ants last month at a port in Hyogo, western Japan. Since then, the ants have been exterminated in Aichi and Osaka. The shares jumped as much as 18 percent today to 1,208 yen, the highest level since 1987, with trading volume more than 16 times its 3-month average. Exterminator Sanix Inc. surged up to 25 percent today, the third biggest gainer on the Topix index.

Fumakilla has been quick to tout its credentials, releasing a statement after initial reports of the sightings that asserted its pesticides would work against the insects. The company also warned that the fire ants’ stings could be fatal, and discouraged approaching the ants due to their aggressive nature. It also promoted products it said can ward off the pests.

Today’s gains in the stock were the biggest since 2014, when interest in pesticides surged following the discovery of dengue fever, carried by mosquitoes, in the nation’s capital.

— With assistance by James Mayger

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