Friday, March 20, 2009

Red Swarm

This sight, that of a swarming fire ant hill is quite rare in Miami these days. "Fire red" ants were everywhere in Miami and they made life miserable for homeowners and gardeners and caused billions of dollars in damage every year. If you have been stung by these guys, you'll understand why we call them "fire" ants! In the early 2000s, the United States Department of Agriculture discovered that the phorid flies of Brazil and Argentina can help keep the ants under control. A biological warfare was launched pitting the phorid flies against the red ants. The theory is worthy of a horror science-fiction movie script: "The flies hover over ant mounds before darting down and injecting a torpedo-like egg into the ants. After the egg hatches, the maggot decapitates the ant by eating the brain and other contents of the head. The maggot later turns into a fly and the cycle is repeated."

This seemed to work because I have no more red ants around my yard...but I found this hill today (not in my yard, thankfully!) All you have to do is step on the hill once. Instantly, red ants swarm from nowhere like lightning, as if these individuals just sit in their nest all day to wait for some one to step on them. Then they'll be busy sending out sentinels to do battle with the intruder and running around the hill top doing I don't quite know what. It takes these fellows a while to calm down and retreat to wait for the next battle. It's a fun way to spend about 20 minutes.

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