Creepy-crawlies spread like wildfire in Texas, destroying native insects and even blinding juvenile rabbits by spitting acid into their eyes.
Natural fungus-like pathogens can be exploited to stop their 20-year-long unchecked growth across the southeastern United States, according to scientists at Texas A&M University.
The findings were published in a scientific journal on Monday, according to the AP.
LeBrun said the fungus had already eliminated pockets of intruders and would soon be tested at environmentally sensitive places in order to protect endangered species from the fungus’s ravages.
TAWNY CRAZY ANTS were brought to the United States by ships, just like the fire ants that they have displaced in some areas of Texas.
In contrast to its ordered cousin species, they are referred to as “mad” because of their irregular, jarring movements.
Fire ants have a poisonous bite, but they emit formic acid, which protects them from the venom and renders local animals helpless.
At an infestation site in the Estero Llano Grande State Park, LeBrun observed, “it’s kind of a horror show,” describing apocalyptic rivers of ants swarming trees and decimating native ants, insects, scorpions, snakes, lizards, and birds.
According to LeBrun, “they’re awful to live with” for people since they ruin ecosystems. A short in breaker box or AC unit or sewage pump is caused by ants looking for somewhere to nest.
Toxic pesticides simply hinder their advance, resulting in snowdrift piles of dead ants that must be cleaned, and the ants eventually breakthrough.
Insects with a venomous bite
Rob Plowes and LeBrun were researching crazy ants they had captured in Florida eight years ago when Plowes discovered that some had abnormally huge abdomens bloated by fat.
A new species of microsporidian, a sort of fungal infection, was discovered by scientists when they examined the microsporidians in their bodies.
Insect fat cells are frequently used by microsporidians as spore producers.
It’s not known where the infection came from, but it could have come from South America or another insect.
Regardless of the cause, the team found it all over Texas. All 15 groups harboring the disease fell throughout the eight-year period, with 60 percent becoming extinct.
With the use of hot dogs in hot dog boxes placed around the exits of the box, the team decided to put infected and uninfected ants together in an experiment at an abandoned nesting site in the state park.
“Supercolonies” are formed by the crazy ants, which implies they don’t compete for territory. Swarming in new places is a fantastic opportunity to transmit the disease, but it has also shown to be one of their greatest weaknesses.
Within a few years, the ant population at the state park had been reduced to nil. Worker ants who cared for larvae looked to be particularly vulnerable.
Secondly, the invading species were being targeted by a pathogen of natural origin, reducing their potential to wreak havoc on local ecosystems.
There are two ways to make sure that crazy ants are exterminated more quickly.
He stressed that it would take time and effort and that it wouldn’t be an easy solution to the extinction problem.
New biocontrol methods will be tested this spring in vulnerable Texas environments.