USDA vs Fireants : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

The Agriculture Department will soon begin to release hundreds of thousands of tiny Brazilian flies in the most heavily infested fire ant areas in the South and possibly California.

The phorid fly helps keep fire ants under control in Brazil and Agrentina, where infestation levels are far lower than they are in the U.S. The flies hover over ant mounts before darting down and injecting a torpedo-like egg in an ant. 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. The ants have an innate fear of the flies, stop foraging and flee when they spot them, giving native ants (if any are left) a chance to move back into the territory.

Most schemes like this backfire when it turns out introduced species cause their own problems.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, November 16, 2000


Ken your right on the backfire part big time! Do we have to remind them of what a great idea it was to introduce the multiflora rose here, or the Asian ladybug bettle? Makes me wonder what kind of college educated nincompoop is in charge of this program, they should have someone who has been a farmer for at least 20 years, that alone would be qualification enough, and save us all a lot of time, money, and aggravation. Annie in SE OH.

-- Annie Miller (, November 16, 2000.

The backfiring is what concerns me. Like the West Nile virus getting imported, I wonder what new diseases will be spread and how do they know they won't lay eggs in the native ants as well? Will they live in our climate or will it be alot of wasted money when they all die? Lots of questions.

-- Epona (, November 16, 2000.

Legions of Ladybugs, Armies of Fire-Ants and now a perpetual Fog of torpedo-bombing, brazilian, head-hunting Flies. Flies that don't kill the mound, but keep it torqued off. New! Improved! fire ant mounds that now come pre-angry to save you the trouble! Isn't our government good to us. Feel the Love.

-- Steven in NC (, November 16, 2000.

I suspect you folks don't live around fire ants. I would almost prefer having democrats to fire ants. I hate fire ants. I read the story you are talking about and I understood it to say that they have tested and tested and now say there is no side effect, for lack of a better term, to using these little gnat type flies. If they kill fire ants I like them

-- Shooter (, November 16, 2000.

Ken, I don't like the fireants either. Seems like they could figure out how to introduce sterile breeders into colonies to thin and kill them out. The part about backfiring,I agree totally. Just look at any stand of kudzu. It sure helped to control erosion in the south. Just don't fall asleep next to a vine for more than 2 hours.

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (, November 16, 2000.

Au Contraire Mon Ami. We co-exist with fireants. Can't stand fireants. Next door neighbor was mowing his lawn this summer when he ran over a small mound just as the wind shifted. Blew every one of those now VERY angy ants back onto him. Bit the fire (no pun intended) out of him. He was briefly hospitalized.

What I understood was that the flies didn't kill the mound, just made them panic. No thanks. Ken said the flies also stopped them from foraging, which is the only way any other organic control or pesticide I'm aware of works. It just seems to me it would make for 1) mad & hungry fireants and 2)reduces the effectiveness (sp) of any other control. If it killed the mound, Hoorah!! Sign me up! It just seems kinda iffy to me. My .02

-- Steven in NC (, November 16, 2000.

I'm with Shooter. You folks apparantly don't live with fire ants. They killed half my hatch of ducklings last fall before they could get out of the eggs. They have killed sitting hens. They kill baby deer, baby calves, baby song birds, etc. When my neighbor's son had a one car accident that killed him, his body was covered with fire ants and he had been stung so many times the undertaker couldn't cover the stings with makeup enough. His mother's hands are forever scarred from trying to wipe the ants off his face. He was already dead, but she could not bear to see them sting him.

I went out to cut the strings on a roll of hay yesterday and they covered my hand. They sting young and old alike and leave pustules that look like really bad chicken pox. When the pustule finally goes away, which can take months, there is a white scar that stays forever. The scars will begin to itch like a fresh sting periodically for years. Now, imagine a child in a fire ant bed. Think of the harm and permanent scarring. Don't tell me to keep children out of the fire ants. They are every where. They are in the yard today and were not yesterday. They are in the clothes in the closets. They are in the air conditioners, well pumps, inside the car, everywhere. They are a damned plague. Now, frankly, I am willing to risk these flies. They supposedly have been tested for efficacy as well as safety.

In the meantime, if any of you would like some fire ants to test and see if what I am saying is true, I'd be glad to ship you some. I've thought for a long time that if the north had fire ants, there would have been some sort of control introduced long ago. Maybe if they were spread nation wide....

-- Green (, November 16, 2000.

A few years ago down near Austin an elderly man who lived alone had a stroke and, although the stroke didn't kill him but disabled him, fire ants killed him before he was found. And I shudder to think about how they eat the eyeballs out of baby deer and baby calves that are too small to escape. I remember Texas A&M University, who is helping in the work with these flies, tried some stuff a few years ago that was supposed to make the queens or whatever sterile but it didn't work very well or something. I think because they could not get it widespread enough or something like that.

-- Shooter (, November 16, 2000.

Hey Jay Blair, you figure you've got a billion mounds in Texas alone (a real estimate) and figure that with the government doing the introducing, it will take $45,000 per mound. Well, you get the message.

-- Shooter (, November 16, 2000.

I despise fire ants. When I lived in Texas, my youngest son was in a neighbors' yard playing on the "slip and slide"...he slid into fire ants..that child was covered with them, and after a night in the emergency room and a very sick child, I decided to make personal war on them. I did extensive research and what I found out scared me to death....these little critters are too darned intelligent..I crept up on the mound with a pot of boiling water, gleefully dumped it onto the mound and woke up the next morning with a brand new mound a foot from my steps. We planted veggies, they ate the seedlings....we sprayed, we dusted, we kicked mounds with big boots on....nada. Does anyone else remember why Texas lost the contract for the supercollider? Fire seems that if an underground supercollider was built, the ants would be attracted to it and eat all the wires....what fun! One hot summer day, our central air went out because fire ants had been attracted to the hum of the outside unit and staged a mass suicide into the wiring, shorting it all out..106 degrees, a bunch of dead killer ants, and no air conditioning.....I vote for whatever nukes them.....or even annoys them, or just ruins their day.

-- Lesley (, November 16, 2000.

I also hate fireants. I'd lots rather deal with little flies. You can't have a garden for the ants. It will break your heart when a toddler gets covered with the painful ants. When a baby gets hurt it stands and cries....the ants cover the child before you can get to them...they are quick! I've lost chickens, calves, rabbits, beehives and anything else that didn't move quick enough. My daughter cried for days when we moved her rabbits and I left them in a temporary cage sitting on the ground for a couple of hrs till I could get to them.....they were half eaten. The flies may not be the answer but anything that makes firants uncomfortable and wary is ok in my book.

-- Amanda S (, November 16, 2000.

Ok, this is going to get me a lot of flack, but I got to ask, what was there first, the people, or the fire ants? If you don't like the fire ants, don't live where they are. I find mosquitoes disgusting, so we live where there are no mosquitoes. If it were possible to eliminate an entire specie of insect, cockroaches would have been long gone, but despite our best efforts, they will most likely still be here long after humans no longer walk this Earth. The same with the fire ants, I'm afraid. Annie in SE OH.

-- Annie Miller (, November 17, 2000.

Uhm, actually, Annie, people were in Texas before the fire ants. The ants migrated from south and central America, kinda like those s South American killer bees and Shining Path Maoist rebels.

You southern folks work real hard to kill those beasts off 'cause I don't want them migrating up here. We have enough problems with carpenter and harvester ants. I tangled with your fire ants once when I was down south. I won't ever do THAT again.

-- Laura (, November 17, 2000.

Thanks, Laura, I stand corrected. But is there any realistic chance that humans will win the battle with the fire ants? Or by messing around introducing foreign species, will we end up cutting off our nose to spite our face? Annie in SE OH.

-- Annie Miller (, November 17, 2000.

George Washington did not stand a realistic chance, but he went ahead anyway. Kill those buggers before they decide to come to AZ for the winter.

-- JLS in NW AZ (, November 17, 2000.

I read that although at present the little devils stay mainly where it's kinda humid and the winters aren't real severe but, they are adapting so you Yankees (I write Yankees with respect) can expect them in a few years. Then, like us, you'll be ready to use nuclear weapons on them.

-- Shooter (, November 17, 2000.

How far north do they expect them to come? I hope they don't adapt too well -- we already have to put up with hordes of mosquitoes and black flies! But there are ants living as far north in Alaska as I've ever been -- I'll have to ask my sister-in-law if there are ants at Barrow, where she's lived a number of years. It would seem entirely feasible for fire ants to live as far north as any other ants do. And do they crossbreed with other ants like the African honey bees do? The Africanized bees seem to dominate the genetics when they cross, and may become hardier as a result of the crossing. I do think that the USDA is pretty well aware of the dangers of introducing new species -- they've been responsible for, or had to help deal with, a number of fiascos already. So hopefully they are VERY sure that these flies won't cause more problems than the fire ants, but it sounds to me like they'd have to cause a LOT of problems to be worse than the fire ants!!

-- Kathleen Sanderson (, November 17, 2000.

They are already about halfway up the state in West Central, Tennessee. Speculation is it is because of the last several mild winters. Counties which have them cannot sell hay to any county which is certified as fire ant free without it being inspected and approved.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, November 17, 2000.

Hate em. I'm generally pretty lenient on God's creatures. Not fire ants...I think I have half a billion mounds on my place alone. I'd be proud to have them little flies at my house. Hey, they can't be any worse than the dozens of mosquito species flying around in the summer.

I say backfire away. And if Green runs out of fire ants, I can overnight express gallons and gallons of fire ants. Or if you prefer, I can save you postage and just send some mated queens. If you live in fire ant country, you see plenty of queens after every rainfall preceded by a dry spell.

-- Phil (, November 17, 2000.


Sorry to yell, but that's how I read or hear that word. I can't even say it without a shiver of dread. When I heard they had been found in Oklahoma, I started to hyperventilate. They are the only thing I will willingly use a chemical on.

Several years ago, we thought of moving to Texas. I seriously thought about getting an ardvark. Will they eat them? It would be a heck of a money maker to raise them and sell to Texans.

-- Mona in OK (, November 18, 2000.

Sorry Mona, we had 2 anteaters in the zoo at Tyler and we visited there frequently.....didn't notice a lack of fireants around their pen. Not real scientific but there it is. When I moved to Missouri I was very very careful to check everything we moved to make sure I didn't accidently bring any ants. I know I'm paranoid :o)).

-- Amanda S (, November 21, 2000.

First let me say that we farm fireants so I know of what I speak. We also farm gnats if our elected officials do not spray the river bottoms at the right time.

While the ants are a serious problem, they sting like a red hot poker, at least they do not get into the mouths and noses of animals and people. The gnats can kill a full grown bull very quickly and a dog does not stand a chance if left outside.

When you drive through a "flock" of gnats it is like having your windshield hit by millions of tiny pebbles. When you go outside they do the same thing to you.

At least when I get bite by a fireant I can put Absorphine Jr on it and go on with whatever I am doing outside. I can even make an effort to avoid the ant hills. When the gnats are present I can not even go outside. We keep our dogs inside when the gnats are present and only take them out for bathroom business, and then we spray them down and us with diluted Skin So Soft (Avon product) so we survive. Both are bad ideas. Of yea, one last thing. I was at Texas A&M in 1977 when they had a bad blackbird problem. Their solution left millions of dead black birds everywhere, literally. You could not walk across campus without stepping around/over/on dead birds.

-- Viv in TX (, November 21, 2000.

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