I, for one, welcome our new undead headless fire ant overlords.

New weapon turns fire ants into headless zombies

Researchers in Texas are trying an unusual approach to combat fire ants -- deploying parasitic flies that turn the pesky and economically costly insects into zombies whose heads fall off.

[...] But now the researchers are trying a tiny phorid fly, native to a region of South America where the fire ants originated. The flies lay eggs on the fire ants, and the eggs hatch into maggots inside the ant and eat away at the pest's tiny brain. The ant will get up and wander for about two weeks while the maggot feeds, said Rob Plowes, a research associate at the University of Texas at Austin.

"There is no brain left in the ant, and the ant just starts wandering aimlessly," he said.

About a month after the egg is laid, the ant's head falls off -- and a new fly emerges ready to attack another fire ant.

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13 Responses:

  1. eqe says:

    Right, because importing *another* pest to deal with the last one is *always* a good idea.

  2. zebe says:

    Countdown to these flies figuring out that humans have much larger and tastier brains, and the entire state turns into zombies.

  3. jayp39 says:

    This bullshit doesn't work at all. I'm in Gainesville, FL, home of UF, where they started testing these critters, supposedly releasing them all over town.

    Even with the help of amdro, my yard is infested with the imported and native fire ants. The hope was if they released enough of these they would spread naturally, but obviously that hasn't happened.

  4. azul_ros says:

    That sounds like a bad idea. If they start killing off the ants, that would certainly effect the ecosystem's natural balance. *shakes head* But zombie ants sound cool.

    • ripvanwormer says:

      It sounds like the flies are a part of the natural balance in the ecosystem from which the fire ants originated; that part of the reason fire ants are so problematic is that in northern climes they lack the parasites that helped keep them in check in their native land.

      I'm sorry it hasn't worked (yet?), but it actually sounds like a sound idea to inexpert mind. They're not upsetting the natural balance, but restoring it to the equilibrium that the blind processes of evolution had originally devised.

  5. taskboy3000 says:

    Jamie, I bet you thought you'd never get a chance to use this song title in a blog post. What a magic, undead world.