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Phorid Flies: Friend Or Foe Against The Fire Ants

1500 words - 6 pages

Since the beginning of human existence this race has been using science in order to protect and advance their society. However as time has progressed the use of this modification has created both positive and negative repercussions. In 1999, the community of Denton, Texas brought in an un-indigenous species to eradicate their fire ant problem. While bringing in this species, the phorid fly, did immediately benefit the community, it will also have long lasting effects on the ecosystem in Denton. In order to weigh both the risk and reward of the phorid fly, it is important to examine all sides of the arguments for and against them.
However before the benefits and detriments of the phorid fly are presented the problem must be put into perspective. The fire ants who invaded the town of Denton were not indigenous to the area and caused many issues for residents of the area. The ants are extremely aggressive and attack anyone who disturbs their nests leaving welts that last for weeks. The ants also took over the residents homes ensuring that no space was safe from their sting. They can damage crops, electrical equipment, and the ecosystem. Solenopsis invicta, the scientific name for the invasive fire ant, reduced biodiversity among reptiles, lizards, and small mammals by causing death to the organisms. In total the ants are estimated to cost the United States one billion dollars a year (without considering economic losses which add another ninety million.)
The phorid fly is a parasitic species whose host animal is the ant. In Denton the infestation of fire ants was partly due to the fact that there were no predators native to the area in which the fire ants had made their home. The fire ants main limiting factor was rain which washed away their ant hills. In the summer of 1999 there had been an extreme drought in the southern United States. The fire ant population skyrocketed and appeared to have no intention of slowing down. The sheer amount of the fire ants made it nearly impossible to exterminate them, especially without an extreme sum of money. The community was desperate for a solution and turned towards the researchers at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory. Dr. Ed LeBrun had been researching phorid flies for years and was eager to give the parasites a test run. Brackenridge Field Laboratory was able to determine which subspecies of phorid flies would be most beneficial to the northern Texas town.
Not all phorid flies attack fire ants and many only attack one of the eight Texan species. The Brackenridge Field Laboratory had the foresight to only exterminate the fire ants that had been imported, the Solenopsis invicta ,instead of all types of the fire ants. Phorid flies who do not use ants for hosts are indigenous to Texas but the specific phorid flies that use kill ants are scientifically named “Phorid Tricuspis”,. The Phorid Tricuspis are indigenous to Argentina and other parts of South America . The fire ants that had been imported to Texas...

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