Fire Ant /Cannibal Fly Alert For 'Nita : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Wednesday November 15 4:11 PM ET Ant-Eating Flies May Rescue South


WASHINGTON (AP) - A tiny Brazilian fly whose larvae literally eat the heads off of fire ants will be unleashed across the South under a government program to control the vicious ants that are a spreading menace to homeowners, farmers and wildlife.

The Agriculture Department, which claims the gnat-like phorid fly is of no danger to anybody or anything other than fire ants, announced plans Wednesday to release hundreds of thousands of them in the South and possibly in California, where the ants have now spread.

``It is a self-sustaining biocontrol,'' said Richard Brenner, who leads a USDA research team in Florida. ``Twelve sites per state could blanket the state within five years.''

Fire ants can make life miserable for homeowners and gardeners and cause billions of dollars in damage every year to air conditioners, electrical equipment and farms, experts say. The ants can blind and even kill livestock and wildlife, and the sting is occasionally fatal to humans.

The ants, which are native to South America, have no natural enemies in the United States. Chemical treatments are only effective temporarily.

``Anything that will take care of these fire ants will be fine with me, as long as it doesn't hurt anything else or the environment,'' said Kym Bell, a Cottondale, Ala., woman whose 5-year-old daughter missed several days of kindergarten this fall because of repeated ant bites on her school playground. The stings left welts the size of a half dollar on her skin.

The phorid fly helps keep the ants under control in Brazil and Argentina, where infestation levels are far lower than they are in the United States.

The flies hover over ant mounds before darting down and injecting a torpedo-like egg into the ants. After one of the eggs hatches, the maggot decapitates the ant by eating the brain and other contents of the head. The maggot later turns into a fly and the cycle is repeated.

The flies don't kill enough of the ants to destroy colonies, but they do cause enough panic to keep the ants in check, Brenner said. The ants, which have an innate fear of the flies, stop foraging and flee when they spot them, giving native ants a chance to move back into the territory.

Some scientists are skeptical that there are enough native ants in the South to compete with the fire ants. The natives have either been poisoned by humans or driven away by fire ants.

``You've got to have a really good competing ant population for the phorid flies to have an effect,'' said Brad Vinson, an entomologist at Texas A&M University.

Scientists also are studying other biological enemies of the fire ant, including a microorganism and a parasitic ant.

The Agriculture Department started studying the flies in 1993 to see if they could harm anything other than fire ants. Nothing other than the fire ants would attract them, including animal dung or human waste, so the government is confident they will be completely safe for the environment, Brenner said.

The flies were released at four sites near Gainesville, Fla., three years ago and now have spread to 700 square miles. USDA scientists are now studying the area to see how the flies have affected ant populations.

As part of the federal project, Florida's agriculture department will begin mass-rearing the flies next spring and will ship them to field sites in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

The project will cost USDA about $100,000.

Discussions also are under way about releasing the flies in California, where parts of the Los Angeles area are under a federal quarantine intended to keep the ants from spreading.


On the Net: USDA's Agricultural Research Service:

Texas A&M University fire-ant site:

-- flora (***@__._), November 15, 2000


I'm with Kym.

-- Carlos (, November 15, 2000.

Thanks, Flora.

I'm taking a wait and see attitude over this news, however. I'm not convinced that the indigenous ant population even exists anymore around here, and that seems to be a prerequisite for success. I'm also hesitant about introducing a foreign species into the ecosystem. I understand that they've studied these gnats with a variety of substances, etc., but I didn't see anything to indicate that they included the LUCKY genepool influence. I could end up with fireants biting my feet while gnats fly into my eyes, resulting in something resembling a St. Vitus dance, resulting either in a humorous animated web page, or burning at the stake.

-- Anita (, November 15, 2000.

Bull Shit! Why does one human seek to scare the Be-Jesus out of another? My God is an awesome God. He reigns on Heaven on Earth. He forgave my daily sins. Cause, I am not perfect.....

-- too bad you (, November 15, 2000.

With all the genetic mutations occurring nowadays, I suspect some mad scientist will breed the Brazilian flies into larger sized cannibal monsters which will eat off the heads of kittens and puppies. Then they would go after humans...

Hollywood horror movie potential.

-- dinosaur (, November 15, 2000.


"the LUCKY genepool influence"...

Funny you should bring that up. As I was running hither & yon today, two things concerned me {I'd heard about the 'cannibal flies' on the car radio}:

1. What else do those suckers eat?

2. What about 'The Lucky Effect'?

As a side note - I sighted today, in former mayor 'make my day' Eastwood's town, a bumpersticker which I thought you might enjoy:

Kinky Friedman




{good grief - I just did a quick search to check my spelling, & look what turned up}: ppearances_at_book_festival_gala_1.html

Sunday November 12 05:37 PM EST Texas first lady makes appearances at book festival, gala

_ Texas first lady Laura Bush put the presidential controversy to the side for a little while yesterday.

Mrs. Bush attended a Bookend Award ceremony at the Capitol which paid tribute to Texas author John Graves.

The first lady was heavily guarded by staff and security and did not make herself available for comment.

In an opening statement, she wrote that Graves' writing was ``powerfully emotional but never excitable,'' words that could also describe the first lady's predicament. She smiled continuously and casually waved at book show supporters who filled the House chamber.

She joined in a standing ovation of Graves, author of ``Goodbye to a River'' and ``Hard Scrabble: Observations on a Patch of Land.''

Bush was also on hand for the festival's gala Friday night, where humor spiked her brief comments about the ``profound national drama'' involving her husband.

She said, ``This is an event where the outcome is never in doubt.''

She said one inevitability was that outspoken Texas musician and author Kinky Friedman would say something outrageous. But if he used the words ``lockbox,'' ``subliminal,'' ``snippy'' or ``recount,'' he wouldn't be invited back, she joked.

``Though my plans at the moment are vague,'' she continued with a pause, ``I can assure you that I'll never run for Senate."


I've hijacked my own thread!

-- flora (***@__._), November 15, 2000.

Anything that gets rid of those little cocksuckers is fine and dandy in my book. I get bit-up on a daily basis, a LOT, as I work outside and often stand in ankle high or taller grass whilst my attention is directed to subjects other than where or what I am standing on. The little bastards have chewed on me so much I am nearly immune to the little puss filled wounds they inflict, but it still hurts when they sting.

Sometimes when I find a mound I will light a cigarette and put it in the mound butt first with the lit side poking up. Then I watch with glee as the evil ant drones attempt to attack the ciggie, they climb up to the top to attack and sting but are met with fire and brimstone. Such is my hatred of the vile creatures that I pleasure myself with their death-throes.

-- Uncle Deedah (, November 15, 2000.


The dark passions...

First today we had capn'fun's mournful Song to the Fallen Leaves, & now Deedah's Ode to the Fire Ants.

-- flora (***@__._), November 15, 2000.

Uh, Unk, remind me never to make you really mad at me.

-- Patricia (, November 15, 2000.

Problem is, Attack of the Killer Mutant Head-Eating Gnats just doesn't seem to have quite the oomph to it as, say, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. But anything that'll eat the head of a fire ant is okay by me (speaking from experience).

-- I'm Here, I'm There (I'm Everywhere@so.beware), November 16, 2000.

Love to eat them mousies

Mousies what I love to eat

Bite they little heads off...

Nibble on they tiny feet.

-- B. Kliban.

-- (, November 17, 2000.

{Bless your lil' heart for the Kliban, nemesis}

I occurs to me that cannibal fly is a misnomer. I hereby cast my vote for the more indicative common name of Ozzy Osborne Grub.

-- flora (***@__._), November 17, 2000.

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