Learning new things every day

Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 27, 2014

To me, learning new things is a daily gift of living.
Every day I attempt to learn something new, even if it’s just something simple I didn’t know the day before.
Friday I learned about the phorid fly. These flies were brought into the country by USDA as a fire ant population control method.
What’s so interesting about a fly you ask? Well this particular fly’s breeding process sounds like something out of a horror movie; it uses the body of live fire ants as a place to lay their eggs.
First, the fly will find a worker ant patrolling the outside of a mound and inject a single egg into the ant’s body.
This egg will hatch and the larvae will grow inside the ant’s thorax until it reaches a stage that prompts it to migrate to the ant’s head.
There it will continue its growth process until the head falls off and the ant dies. It sounds pretty gruesome but at the same time quite interesting.
I find it to be a stroke of brilliance that the USDA has come up with a biological way to attempt to control the fire ant population as opposed to resorting to chemicals.
These flies are not the only method they are looking into to control the fire ant population, a USDA representative said various viruses that affect ants are also being investigated. Basically the idea is to determine the natural factors that control the fire ant population on their native continent, and subsequently bring them stateside. In South America, where the fire ant originates, their population is kept in check due to these natural factors.
By using the population control features that have evolved in nature the USDA is well on its way to reducing the population of an invasive species that is spreading across the United States.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox