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Friday, May 15, 2009

Latest pest-control attempt: Turn fire ants into zombies

The insects you see in the photo on the left are fireants. (source of photo:

"Fireants are a variety of stinging ants with over 280 species worldwide. A typical fire ant colony produces large mounds in open areas, and feeds mostly on young plants, seeds, and sometimes crickets. Fire ants often attack small animals and can kill them.Fire ants nest in soil, often near moist areas such as river banks, pond edges, watered lawns and highway edges. Although most fire ant species do not bother people and are not invasive due to biological factors,
Solenopsis invicta , commonly known as the Red imported fire ant (or RIFA) is an invasive pest in many areas of the world, notably the United States, Australia, the Phillipines, China and Taiwan. . The RIFA was accidentally introduced into the United States due to a South American cargo ship coming to an Alabama port in 1918, but now infests the majority of the Southern and
Southwestern United States."

Why dear reader, am I introducing you to fire ants? Because a new means of controlling the populations of fire-ants has been discovered! Entomologists have learned that the ant's natural enemy, is the the South American phorid fly, Pseudacteon obtusus. Here is a photo of a phorid fly about to lay an egg on a fire-ant :

These flies attack foraging fire ants, injecting eggs into the ant with a needle-like appendage. As the larvae mature, they attack and destroy the brain, causing the ant to wander aimlessly like a zombie.!!! After two weeks or so, the ant's head falls off (!!!) and a new fly emerges, ready to attack other ants.
The phorid flies have never been found to attack native ants, preferring to dine only on their South American hosts.Scientists have previously released other species of phorid flies in Texas, but those species attack only ants in disturbed nests, and thus make only a minor contribution to controlling the invader. The new species is the first to attack foraging ants outside the nest.The ants quickly become aware of the new flies and retreat into their nests, said entomologist Rob Plowes of the university. "It's kind of like a medieval activity where you are putting a castle under siege," he said. That retreat allows native ants better access to food sources, he added.The flies will not eradicate the fire ants, Plowes added, but they could help control their spread. To see a series of photos which shows this go to:
The invasive ants cause an estimated $1 billion in damage in Texas every year. By introducing the new species of phorid, Pseudacteon obtusus (not pictured above), for the first time in the U.S., scientists hope to be able to control fire ant populations. Fascinating and amazing!!

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.