Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Parasite City

San Antonio's Express News has an interesting article about the new biological control program in Texas that targets red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta). Armed with vials of Brazilian phorid flies (Pseudacteon tricuspis) raised in the USDA's Florida research facility, Texas Cooperative Extension worker Molly Keck is tracking down fire ant mounds in San Antonio and releasing the flies, who pounce on their victims and deposit an egg inside each one's head. But maybe the real story here is Molly's mom, who definitely goes above and beyond her parental duties to walk the area with a cattle prod, zapping the ground to agitate the fire ants and get them out where the flies can find them. Would your mom do that for you?

You can read more about the program in this Texas A&M press release, and an ISW post from 2003 about the Florida program. Thanks to nuthatch over at bootstrap analysis for sending in a link to the article.


biosparite said...

About time someone took out the fire ants. As a long-term Houstonian I have been bitten so many times (perhaps "stung" is a better word) that I hardly notice when one of the little beasts lays into me. I have heard a rumor that a protozoan parasite has discovered this abundant trophic resource, and I see that fire-ant mounds out in pastures do not seem to reach the 3+-foot-high level of the 1980s these days. Off-topic, but did you see "Winning the War Against Island Invaders" in the 12/2/05 issue of SCIENCE? If not, you will enjoy it. The photo of the baby Xantus's murrlet is worth the trouble of turfing up the journal.

thingfish23 said...

"Don't lean on me, man/'cos you can't afford the ticket/I'm back from Parasite City..."

Couldn't resist. Sorry.

Jake said...

"Take me down to the Parasite City/where the grass is green and the girls are pretty..."

Yep, I'm one, too.

Jenn said...

Oh no! I am so not cool! I had to Google the lyrics to remember that was Suffragette City. And David Bowie is so much cooler than Axel Rose, the intended target of the pun.