Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fire Ant Zombies

You can't make this up... here is a portion of the story posted on a local website:

Pesky Ants Becoming Zombies That Die

Ants Turn Into Zombies Whose Heads Fall Off

POSTED: Tuesday, May 12, 2009
UPDATED: 11:45 am CDT May 12, 2009

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Some researchers in Texas are trying an unusual approach to combat fire ants -- parasitic flies that turn the pesky insects into zombies whose heads fall off.
"It's a tool. They're not going to completely wipe out the fire ant, but it's a way to control their population," said Scott Ludwig, an integrated pest management specialist with Texas A&M's AgriLife Extension Service in Overton, in East Texas.

The tool is the tiny phorid fly, native to a region of South America where the fire ants in Texas originated. Researchers have learned that as many as 23 phorid species along with pathogens attack fire ants to keep their population and movements under control.

So far, four phorid species have been introduced in Texas, where fire ants cost the economy about $1 billion annually by damaging circuit breakers and other electrical equipment, according to a Texas A&M study. They can also threaten young calves.

The flies "dive-bomb" the fire ants and lay eggs, and then the maggot that hatches inside the ant eats away at the brain. Later, the ant gets up and starts wandering for about two weeks, said Rob Plowes, a research associate at the University of Texas at Austin.

Although the ant exhibits zombie-like behavior, Plowes said he "wouldn't use the word 'control' to describe what is happening. There is no brain left in the ant, and the ant just starts wandering aimlessly."

About a month after the egg is laid, the ant's head falls off and it dies -- and the fly emerges ready to attack any foraging ants away from the mound and lay eggs.

Plowes said fire ants are "very aware" of these tiny flies, and it only takes a few to cause the ants to modify their behavior.

"It's kind of like a medieval activity where you're putting a castle under siege," Plowes told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a story in Tuesday editions.

What next??


Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...


g-man said...

The only thing scarier was that one of the guys I work with had already hear that. Who knew? (beside that guy :)

Lynda said...

Hey! it's my two favorite G-guys ;)

Mimi said...


Thanks for stopping by my blog & helping to make my SITS day special!

Anonymous said...

Australians have deviced an interesting plan to curb red ant problem, by putting the queen on to 'pill'. See
Winning the fight against the red fire ant also impresses other countries

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