Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Biocontrolling Fire Ants

April 8th, 2009 · 3 Comments

phoridflyMicrokhan’s Sun Belt readers are likely all-too-familiar with the ravages of imported fire ants—especially if they’re in the business of providing us carnivorous Americans with our delicious, delicious burgers and tripe. Imported fire ants enjoy few victuals more than the flesh of a baby calf. As a result, the critters cost ranchers zillions every years.

The ants are thus a hot topic at this week’s TSCRA Convention, an annual pow-wow of Texan cattlemen. Those ranchers are being told that the solution is not more and better pesticides, but rather the humble phorid fly (pictured at right)—or, more precisely, a carefully bred species of phorid fly that will eat imported fire ants, and absolutely nothing else.

Here’s all you need to know about fire ants, phorid flies, and even armadillos, courtesty of the Brackenridge Field Laboratory. And while we’re on the topic of ants, you should spare a few moments for Carl Stephenson’s classic short story Leiningen versus the Ants. It’s the tale that made Microkhan want to become a writer in the first place.


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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Gramsci

    [writers of Macgyver nodding, teary-eyed, at your childhood inspiration]

  • Jordan

    Situations where we have tried to introduce a new species to bring down the population of another have been rather fraught with difficulty. Hopefully this will be more like using bacteriophages to get rid of bacterial infections rather than using mongoose to get rid of rats.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Jordan: While writing this post, I kept on thinking about this classic exchange from “The Simpsons,” which takes place right after Springfield celebrates its invasion of pigeon-eating lizards:

    Skinner: Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.
    Lisa: But isn’t that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we’re overrun by lizards?
    Skinner: No problem. We simply release wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They’ll wipe out the lizards.
    Lisa: But aren’t the snakes even worse?
    Skinner: Yes, but we’re prepared for that. We’ve lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.
    Lisa: But then we’re stuck with gorillas!
    Skinner: No, that’s the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.

    Those poor gorillas…