Fire Ants – Wreaking Havoc

Fire Ants – Wreaking Havoc

Texas ranchers and homeowners have become more or less accustomed to dealing with their own native stinging ants – affectionately known as fire ants. But now a South American invader has turned up on the scene, making itself even more of a nuisance. I’m Jim Metzner and this is Pulse of the Planet. Larry Gilbert researches plant and insect ecology at the University of Texas in Austin.

“Here in Texas we have over four species of native fire ants, and we have the pest species solenopsis invicta which is the red imported fire ant.”

Disturb a mound of fire ants, native or imported, and you’ll get an unpleasant surprise.

“The first thing they do is they run around looking for something to grab on to with their mouth parts, with their mandibles. And that gives them an anchor point and once they anchor their head in, then they can jab the stinger in. And when they start stinging there’s probably some pheromone release that gets them all going so it quickly builds up to a crescendo of fire on your legs.”

Brazilian fire ants were first detected on our shores over sixty years ago. Since then, they’ve spread throughout the south. Without any natural enemies to control them, the invader ants have had an advantage over native species and can wreak all kinds of havoc.

“In agriculture they are damaging to live stock, they can injure baby animals that are born out in the field. The fire ants love to go into circuit boxes, particularly underground circuit boxes and haul their nest in there and start short circuiting things and so they can create, fires in houses and any number of equipment failures that can, that have led to quite a bit of economic damage.”

We’ll hear more about fire ants and some ingenious attempts to control them on future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

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Fire Ants - Wreaking Havoc

Infestations of Brazilian fire ants in the southeastern United States are like a scenario from a sci-fi thriller.
Air Date:06/02/2004
Scientist:
Transcript:

Fire Ants - Wreaking Havoc

Texas ranchers and homeowners have become more or less accustomed to dealing with their own native stinging ants - affectionately known as fire ants. But now a South American invader has turned up on the scene, making itself even more of a nuisance. I'm Jim Metzner and this is Pulse of the Planet. Larry Gilbert researches plant and insect ecology at the University of Texas in Austin.

"Here in Texas we have over four species of native fire ants, and we have the pest species solenopsis invicta which is the red imported fire ant."

Disturb a mound of fire ants, native or imported, and you'll get an unpleasant surprise.

"The first thing they do is they run around looking for something to grab on to with their mouth parts, with their mandibles. And that gives them an anchor point and once they anchor their head in, then they can jab the stinger in. And when they start stinging there's probably some pheromone release that gets them all going so it quickly builds up to a crescendo of fire on your legs."

Brazilian fire ants were first detected on our shores over sixty years ago. Since then, they've spread throughout the south. Without any natural enemies to control them, the invader ants have had an advantage over native species and can wreak all kinds of havoc.

"In agriculture they are damaging to live stock, they can injure baby animals that are born out in the field. The fire ants love to go into circuit boxes, particularly underground circuit boxes and haul their nest in there and start short circuiting things and so they can create, fires in houses and any number of equipment failures that can, that have led to quite a bit of economic damage."

We'll hear more about fire ants and some ingenious attempts to control them on future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music