Developments to Watch
FIREPOWER AGAINST FIRE ANTS: KILLER FLIES
"OFF WITH THEIR HEADS" IS the new battle cry in the war against fire ants. Sanford Porter, a scientist at the Agricultural Research Service Laboratory in Gainesville, Fla., is marshaling South American parasitic flies against them. The female Pseudacteon fly injects an egg into an ant with a needle-like appendage. The egg develops into a maggot and eats through the ant's neck to the head, producing enzymes that decapitate the critter.
Today's pesticides are no match for fire ants, which have spread from South America to 11 states and Puerto Rico. They feed on potatoes, pecans, and soybeans; kill orange trees; and drive out snakes, lizards, and native ants, reducing biodiversity. Pending an environmental-impact study, Porter hopes to begin field trials of two or three species of Pseudacteon within a year.EDITED BY PETER COY