To kill fire ants, turn them into headless zombies: "Some researchers in Texas are trying an unusual approach to combat fire ants — parasitic flies that turn the pesky insects into zombies whose heads fall off.
“It’s a tool. They’re not going to completely wipe out the fire ant, but it’s a way to control their population,” said Scott Ludwig, an integrated pest management specialist with Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service in Overton, in East Texas.
The tool is the tiny phorid fly, native to a region of South America where the fire ants in Texas originated. Researchers have learned that as many as 23 phorid species along with pathogens attack fire ants to keep their population and movements under control.
So far, four phorid species have been introduced in Texas, where fire ants cost the economy about $1 billion annually by damaging circuit breakers and other electrical equipment, according to a Texas A&M study. They can also threaten young calves.
The flies “dive-bomb” the fire ants and lay eggs, and then the maggot that hatches inside the ant eats away at the brain. Later, the ant gets up and starts wandering for about two weeks, said Rob Plowes, a research associate at the University of Texas at Austin."