Researchers in Texas are trying a new way to fight fire ants: tiny flies.
The parasitic phorid fly is native to the region of South America where the fire ants originated. As many as 23 species of the fly keep the ants under control there.
The flies lay eggs on the fire ants. When they hatch, the maggots inside the ant eat away at its brain. A researcher at the University of Texas at Austin says that prompts the ant to wander aimlessly while the maggot feeds and eventually turns into a fly.
After about a month, the ant's head falls off and the fly emerges to attack another fire ant.
A pest management specialist at Texas A&M says the flies won't wipe out the fire ant completely, but they will control the populations. The flies are not believed to attack other species native to the Gulf Coast region.
A Texas A&M study estimates the biting, territorial fire ants cost the Texas economy about $1 billion annually by damaging electrical equipment. They can also threaten young calves.
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