mcclatchy/3231765/print

Parasitic flies turn fire ants into zombies
By Bill Hanna, Fort Worth Star-Telegram Bill Hanna, Fort Worth Star- telegram Tue May 12, 2:09 pm ET
It sounds like something out of science fiction: zombie fire ants. But it's all too real.
Fire ants wander aimlessly away from the mound.
Eventually their heads fall off, and they die.
The strange part is that researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M's AgriLife Extension Service say making "zombies" out of fire ants is a good thing.
"It's a tool — they're not going to completely wipe out the fire ant, but it's a way to control their population," said Scott Ludwig , an integrated pest management specialist with the AgriLife Extension Service in Overton , in East Texas .
The tool is the tiny phorid fly, native to a region of South America where the fire ants in Texas originated. Researchers have learned that there are as many as 23 phorid species along with pathogens that attack fire ants to keep their population and movements under control.

So far, four phorid species have been introduced in Texas .

The flies "dive-bomb" the fire ants and lay eggs. The maggot that hatches inside the ant eats away at the brain, and the ant starts exhibiting what some might say is zombie-like behavior.

"At some point, the ant gets up and starts wandering," said Rob Plowes, a research associate at UT.
The maggot eventually migrates into the ant's head, but Plowes said he "wouldn't use the word 'control' to describe what is happening. There is no brain left in the ant, and the ant just starts wandering aimlessly. This wandering stage goes on for about two weeks."

About a month after the egg is laid, the ant's head falls off and the fly emerges ready to attack any foraging ants away from the mound and lay eggs.
Plowes said fire ants are "very aware" of these tiny flies, and it only takes a few to cause the ants to modify their behavior.

"Just one or two flies can control movement or above-ground activity," Plowes said. "It's kind of like a medieval activity where you're putting a castle under siege."
Researchers began introducing phorid species in Texas in 1999. The first species has traveled all the way from Central and South Texas to the Oklahoma border. This year, UT researchers will add colonies south of the Metroplex at farms and ranches from Stephenville to Overton . It is the fourth species introduced in Texas .
Fire ants cost the Texas economy about $1 billion annually by damaging circuit breakers and other electrical equipment, according to a Texas A&M study. They can also threaten young calves.
Determining whether the phorid flies will work in Texas will take time, perhaps as long as a decade.
"These are very slow acting," Plowes said. "It's more like a cumulative impact measured across a time frame of years. It's not an immediate silver bullet impact."
The flies, which are USDA -approved, do not attack native ants or species and have been introduced in other Gulf Coast states, Plowes said. Despite initial concerns, farmers and ranchers have been willing to let researchers use their property to establish colonies. At the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association in Fort Worth in March, Plowes said they found plenty of volunteers.
mcclatchy/3231765/print Plowes said fire ants are "very aware" of these tiny flies, and it only takes a few to ... movement or above-ground activity," Plowes said. "It's kind of like a medieval activity where you're putting a castle under siege."

This is the part that gives me the willies... that the fire ants are "very aware" of the phorids. The fact that they seemingly know what the phorid flies can do to them is eerie.
Almost makes me wonder if you couldn't design "scare-phorids" on little wires, floating above the fire ant hill. Would they hide from them, fearing to leave the hill, until they starved to death?

RonB
"There's a story there...somewhere"
mcclatchy/3231765/print Plowes said fire ants are "very aware" of ... a medieval activity where you're putting a castle under siege."

This is the part that gives me the willies... that the fire ants are "very aware" of the phorids. The ... above the fire ant hill. Would they hide from them, fearing to leave the hill, until they starved to death?

The "walking-around-until-your-head falls-off" thing, kind of freaks me.
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mcclatchy/3231765/print So far, four phorid species have been introduced in Texas . The flies "dive-bomb" the fire ants and ... zombie-like behavior. "At some point, the ant gets up and starts wandering," said Rob Plowes, a research associate at UT.

I think this idea was used in an episode of King of the Hill back when it first came out in 1997.
mcclatchy/3231765/print Parasitic flies turn fire ants into zombies By Bill Hanna, Fort Worth Star-Telegram Bill Hanna, Fort Worth Star- ... Texas at Austin and Texas A&M's AgriLife Extension Service say making "zombies" out of fire ants is a good thing.

Now if only the military can put their scientists to work studying these creepy ***, we can get that zombie apocalypse I've been waiting for on the way!
Cheers,
B
http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcclatchy/20090512/sc mcclatchy/3231765/print Parasitic flies turn fire ants into zombies By ... making "zombies" out of fire ants is a good thing.

Now if only the military can put their scientists to work studying these creepy ***, we can get that zombie apocalypse I've been waiting for on the way! Cheers, B

Okay, I'm all for a zombie ant movie, but right now they can't bite - no head, no mouth - not a good zombie trait, better for golems. But if the military spliced some phoid stuff into, say, soldiers, and they managed to keep their heads (while all others were losing theirs) and OMG a genetic experiment goes horribly awry! Zombies in uniform.
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"Paulo Joe Jingy"
The flies "dive-bomb" the fire ants and lay eggs. The maggot that hatches inside the ant eats away at the brain, and the ant starts exhibiting what some might say is zombie-like behavior.

If you were a fly, would you prefer to spend your childhood munching through an ant's brain, or chowing *** as you eat your way out of a turd?

Martin B
"Paulo Joe Jingy"

The flies "dive-bomb" the fire ants and lay eggs. The ... ant starts exhibiting what some might say is zombie-like behavior.

If you were a fly, would you prefer to spend your childhood munching through an ant's brain, or chowing *** as you eat your way out of a turd? Martin B

Bad fly joke: What did one fly say to another?
Pardon me, is this stool taken?
Time for a remake of Them!
But instead of the zombie ants heads falling off, they make human heads fall off...much like the original would have.

Although it'll be tough trying to write it as intelligently as the original was,
the SFX should undoubtedly be somewhat better.
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