Fire Ants Under Attack! The Way Texas Is Taking Their Numbers Down

May 13, 2009

Texas (ChattahBox) – Researchers have come up with an interesting, though natural, way of combating the growing fire ant population in Texas.

Fire ants originated in South America, where they faced many enemies that worked at keeping their numbers down. Once they migrated to Texas, however, they became the kings of bugs, their numbers growing unchecked amidst a world of few predators.

But researchers at Texas A&M University have discovered a way to fix the problem, and so save the state the nearly $1 billion in damaged caused by the insects: bring the predators to them.

Scientists have begun introducing phorid flies to the region. The tiny parasites attack fire ants one at a time, laying their eggs in their body. The egg then hatches and becomes a maggot, which grows inside the living ant, eating it’s brain over the course of a few weeks.

Once the brain is gone, the ant still lives, wandering aimlessly, with no full control, for two more weeks. The phorid then breaks through the head, and the ant dies.

It is a slow, brutal, almost imaginary-sounding process, but one that scientists believe will be effective, if only over time.

“It’s kind of like a medieval activity where you’re putting a castle under siege, it’s very slow acting,” Rob Plowes, one of the researchers, said.

“It’s more like a cumulative impact measured across a time frame of years. It’s not an immediate silver-bullet impact.”

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