Crazy ants are native to South America. However, over the last twenty years, the southern United States has gradually been invaded. Spitting acid at their targets, they devastate everything in their path.
How can an insect that measures just a few millimeters cause so much damage to the ecosystem? The mad ant, scientifically called Nylanderia fulva, is fundamentally native to South America. But in the last 20 years, this invasive species has been spreading across the southern United States.
From Mississippi to Florida to Louisiana, his last high-profile visit was to Estero Llano Grande Park in Texas, where insects formed “ant rivers”, endangering the local ecosystem and causing all fauna to disappear.
Dangerous ants for humans and animals
These crazy ants produce formic acid which they spit on their targets. Particularly aggressive, they are not afraid to attack insects larger than themselves or even animals! They can decimate entire species, such as spiders and millipedes.
A small foraging trail of Nylanderia fulva on the trunk of a young Sea Grape tree. This species is an ecologically important exotic causing destruction wherever the species spreads, often by disrupting electrical equipment.
Key Largo, FL pic.twitter.com/o2aJpvErpO
— Clara Dandridge 🏳️⚧️⚧🐜 (@Ferox_Formicae) April 21, 2020
They also blind chickens and rabbits by spitting acid into their eyes. And even attacks on cows have been recorded! Due to their tiny size, ants infiltrate homes and electrical systems. And they are capable of causing short circuits in homes.
Scientists have been looking for a solution to the problem of these mad ants for 20 years. But no effective means have been found to eliminate this invasive and dangerous species until very recently.
A magic mushroom to save us!
Investigators at the University of Texas may have found the solution to the attacker. They worked on this project for 8 years before making public the results of their work: the fungus myrmecomorba nylanderiae causes the death of the mad ant without killing the other species around it.
La fourmi folle fauve (fourmi folle Framboise), envahissante, se propage dans le sud des USA. Une solution naturelle pourrait exister pour limiter l'expansion de ces hyménoptères problématiques, sous la forme d'un pathogène fongique hautement infectieux.https://t.co/70cs05VyLd pic.twitter.com/kJZBZM74lu
— Rebecca Rambar (@RebeccaRambar) March 31, 2022
By studying the dead ants, the scientists discovered that some had their abdomens full of fat. When autopsied, they found spores inside the infected ants. To verify their hypothesis, the Texan researchers went to test the fungal pathogen where ants were found in large numbers: Estero Llano Grande Park!
Therefore, they placed the specimens infected with the mushroom near the mad ant nests. At the same time, the team also sought to voluntarily attract other ant species that had fallen prey to mad ants.
The results: within a few months, the acid-spitting ant population had shrunk to near extinction! While the fauna and flora could regain their right to nature.
Source: University of Texas