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Biotech Idle

Texas Makes Zombie Fire Ants 398

eldavojohn writes "What do you do when a foreign species has been introduced to your land from another continent? Bring over the natural predator from the other continent. Scientists in Texas have introduced four kinds of phorid flies from South America to fight fire ants. These USDA approved flies dive bomb ants and lay an egg inside the ant. The maggot hatches and eats away juicy tender delicious ant brain until the ant is nothing more than a zombie that wanders around for two weeks before the head falls off and the ant dies. A couple of these flies will cause the ants to modify their behavior and this will be a very slow acting solution to curb the $1 billion in damage these ants do to Texas cattle ranches and — oddly enough — electrical equipment like circuit breakers. You may remember zombifying parasites hitting insects like cockroaches."
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Texas Makes Zombie Fire Ants

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @10:22PM (#27946867)

    I for one welcome our new Zombie Fire Ant overlords.

  • Eh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by James Skarzinskas ( 518966 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @10:23PM (#27946877)
    You call this a zombie apocalypse? This ain't nothing compared to the zombie attack of 57.
    • Re:Eh. (Score:5, Funny)

      by unlametheweak ( 1102159 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @10:51PM (#27947051)

      I think they've already gotten to the politicians first. The brain dead are sometimes hard to tell apart from normal people.

      • by TheLink ( 130905 )
        Those that keep getting reelected seem smart enough.

        It's the "normal people" I worry about.

        Many politicians just pretend to be stupid because in many cases voters prefer voting for people who are like them (i.e. stupid).

        In some places voters might prefer voting for people who are smarter. But in others, appearing to be smart seems to lose you votes.
        • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:44AM (#27948191) Journal

          Actually, I'm very tempted to apply:

          1. Occam's Razor. If someone consistently acts stupid, talks stupid, etc, there are two possible explanations:

          A: He's stupid.

          B: He's a really really smart guy and a great actor, and pretends so well to be stupid that nobody can tell the difference.

          I think you'll agree that the first is the simpler explanation.

          2. The Peter Principle: everyone keeps getting promoted until they become incompetent for the job they just got promoted to. (E.g., because it needs different skills than the previous one.)

          Politicians are actually one of the original examples in Peter's book. To get elected you need charisma, basically. But after you get elected, you need stuff like management skills, you need to know economics, etc. None of those played any role in convincing the people to elect you. So it's quite easy to end up with a bunch of elected politicians who genuinely don't have any more skills than talking convincingly out the arse and looking good in front of a camera. The skills they'd actually need to do a good job in the office, they simply don't have.

          Worse yet, we elect those who can _lie_ convincingly or at least conveniently not mention half the truth. My standard example is the Phillips curve: all else being equal (and invariably out of your control), inflation and unemployment depend on each other. You push one down, the other goes up. Now think of all the politicians whose claim to deserving the office is, basically, "OMG, under the current government there is inflation! We'll reduce that!" or conversely for unemployment. But they never mention that their plan involves the other going _up_. If they told you that, that would be political suicide. So their getting elected depends on claiming to get one up, while strongly implying and getting you to assume (though not actually saying so) that the other will obviously stay put.

          Or occasionally one promises to solve both. 'Cause, I suppose, if you're going to lie anyway, might as well go all the way.

          Then we wonder how come they lie after they got elected, instead of actually doing what they promised. Duh. Because we tested their ability to lie, not the ability to do what they promised. We just promoted someone to a position for which they're unqualified and incompetent.

          3. As a bonus: Hanlon's Razor. Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

          I don't doubt that some of the above mentioned don't outright lie, but genuinely Peter's Principle applies. They don't understand economics well enough to know that they're promising an impossibility.

          • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @06:10AM (#27949031)

            Have you read this


            People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd.

            It's truly +1 Funny/Insightful. And yet highly disturbing (-1 Troll) too, because clearly everyone must have areas where they lack ability and also lack 'metacognitive ability' to know they lack ability. It's absolutely an awesome read the first time you do so.

  • by Powercntrl ( 458442 ) * on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @10:26PM (#27946891)

    My first thought was "Why does Texas need a zombie to terminate the employment of ants, and how did they get a job in the first place?"

    Then I realized, this is Texas, afterall.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @10:28PM (#27946913)

    This is what those environmentalists should be doing. Using nature against nature in ways that can help man.

    ---Hank Hill of Arlen, TX

  • by dsginter ( 104154 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @10:29PM (#27946921)

    Skinner: Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.

    Lisa: But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?

    Skinner: No problem. We simply release wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.

    Lisa: But aren't the snakes even worse?

    Skinner: Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.

    Lisa: But then we're stuck with gorillas!

    Skinner: No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.

  • by cvtan ( 752695 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @10:29PM (#27946927)
    Zombies are never the answer. Oh wait. Zombie ant overlords? That's totally different.
  • The Selfish Gene (Score:3, Informative)

    by crocodill ( 668896 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @10:30PM (#27946931)

    Richard Dawkins talks about ants doing this kind of stuff in his book: The Selfish Gene.

    It's an awesome book to read if you want to learn more about the world you're living in and also reasoning behind a lot of human behaviour.

  • by HamburglerJones ( 1539661 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @10:36PM (#27946969)

    "These are very slow acting," Plowes said. "It's more like a cumulative impact measured across a time frame of years. It's not an immediate silver bullet impact."

    Well of course there's no silver bullet impact for zombie fire ants, but if we need to get rid of some werewolf fire ants, the silver bullets might do the trick!

  • Coming this summer to a theatre near you:
    Texas Zombie Ant Chainsaw Massacre!

    How's that for a mashup?

    • by Shag ( 3737 )

      Yeah, I was gonna say this headline seemed to be missing a couple words. :)

  • uh oh (Score:5, Funny)

    by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @10:49PM (#27947035)

    When are the Russians going to get around to linking all these zombies into a botnet? Or would that be a bugnet?

  • Stock Tip... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by maz2331 ( 1104901 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @11:03PM (#27947115)

    Whatever company that makes RAID (bug spray, not disk stuff)...


    The product will be needed soon, and in great quantities.

  • by Loualbano2 ( 98133 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @11:04PM (#27947121)

    Porky Pig tried this once in an old Bug Bunny cartoon.

    He had a mouse problem, so he bought a cat.

    When Porky Pig went to bed, the cat invited all of his friends over and they got wasted played the piano loudly and sang drinking songs. One of the cats had a lampshade on his head and everything.

    When Porky Pig got fed up with this, he bought a dog. How he found a place in the 50's or 60's that sold dogs in the middle of the night is anyone's guess. He let the dog loose in the house and waited.

    The cats got the dog drunk and he was singing with them in about 30 seconds.

    So obviously these flies are eventually going to get drunk and sing, which is pretty cool, making this plan sweet.

  • by e9th ( 652576 ) <> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @11:06PM (#27947143)
    When I got to New Mexico, I couldn't even look at huevos rancheros. Within a year, they had become a breakfast favorite.

    The phorids will have whole generations to refine their taste.
    • No need (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @11:19PM (#27947213)

      In Texas, fire ants are bountiful. There will be no need to attack other ants...

      Of course that's now, it will be interesting to see what happens when the fire ant population starts dwindling. But basically these will probably just keep it in more of a natural check.

  • Ex-wife (Score:4, Funny)

    by iliketrash ( 624051 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @11:20PM (#27947219)
    These ... flies dive bomb ants and lay an egg inside the ant. The maggot hatches and eats away juicy tender delicious ant brain until the ant is nothing more than a zombie that wanders around for two weeks before the head falls off and the ant dies.

    Can I get something like this for my ex-wife?

  • Let's summarize:
    • Scientists are introducing a brain-consuming maggot into Texas that turns fire ants into zombies.
    • After their brains are consumed, the fire ants wander aimlessly for two weeks, then die.
    • Flies emerge from the dead ants, hungry for more ants.

    There are just so many bad science fiction plotlines here...and in all of them, we end up mining underground sugar caves for Nazgulesque maggots astride their fearsome zombie fire ants. In a few, we end up being tortured by the fire ants' Neo, who hunts

  • "Bring over the natural predator from the other continent."

    We are the disease... we are the cure... we are the disease... we are the cure...


  • There are a lot of cases where this kind of approach went terribly wrong, but, what are the alternatives to solve the fire ant problem, without causing far more problems?
  • San Antonio (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lauless ( 1001669 )
    This is the first year I have not seen any fire ants. It used to be a constant battle, and the bites hurt. A year or two ago the crazy ants showed up (Paratrechina longicornis). They are now everywhere and have evicted the fire ants. They rarely bite, but they are EVERYWHERE (in my yard). They even tried to move into my car. EVERYWHERE.
  • by EEPROMS ( 889169 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @12:00AM (#27947455)
    In Australia we have recently had the fire ant invade our island nation with some very nasty environmental results. After years of study the CSIRO have discovered an inherent weakness with the fire ants colonies. The queen is the only ant able to breed in a colony so if you disable her the colony dies. So what we do here in the land of the sun and over sized rabbits called kangaroos is put the fire ant the queen on the pill, so far it has worked very well but like everything needs to be managed.

    More info can be found here []
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:07AM (#27947797)

      That works only if fire ants don't evolve to have multiple queens in one colony, like the fire ants here in Texas did. To add insult to injury, the worker fire ants will not feed all the queens the same foods, making it difficult to kill all the queens in a colony through poisoning.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Thursday May 14, 2009 @07:23AM (#27949355) Journal

    It's 6:23 in the AM, and this is what's sitting on my RSS reader:

    Texas Makes Zombie Fire Ants

    Some days you just want to crawl back into bed.

  • by pak9rabid ( 1011935 ) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @09:15AM (#27950041)
    Here's [] a solution.

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake