Here’s an interesting video from Discovery News on the US Department of Agriculture’s effort to control the spread of the destructive fire ant. Fire ants are a native of South America and were likely brought over to the United States by unsuspecting cargo ships. These ants are quite destructive to items such as corn crops, orange trees and electrical junction boxes and their sting can be quite painful and even deadly to a small percentage of the population. Unfortunately, the ants have no known natural predator in the United States and have been left to reap havoc to our agricultural landscape. Now, thanks to Sanford Porter from the US Department of Agriculture, these tiny beasts’ days may be numbered. Dr. Porter has imported the fire ant’s #1 enemy, the Phorid Fly, and brought it to the United States to control the fire ant population. The Phorid Fly is a parisitoid that kills its host by injecting eggs into the host’s body. The newborn maggots then eat away at the fire ant’s bodily juices until the ant’s head falls off leading to its ultimate demise.
The phorid flies only attack fire ants and those that are imported by the US Department of Agriculture spend 1-3 years in quarantine to guarantee that they do not further damage US crops.
Thanks to SciNewsBlog for bringing this video to my attention.