You would think they would develop resistance

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by primroselane, Dec 3, 2004.

  1. primroselane

    primroselane Well-Known Member

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    WASHINGTON — Entomologists at federal laboratories in Florida say they have discovered a virus that is lethal to the hated red imported fire ant.

    It might be possible to use the virus as soon as a year from now to develop a way of controlling the insect without pesticides, the researchers said.

    Fire ants, known for their painful sting and large mounds, have spread relentlessly since they were accidentally imported into Mobile, Ala., from South America in the 1930s. The Agriculture Department estimates that more than 300 million acres in 14 states across the South are infested by the imported ants.

    Each year, the ants cause an estimated $6 billion in agricultural damage and various expenditures, the department estimates.

    Steven Valles, an entomologist at the U.S. Agriculture Department's Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, Fla., said researchers stumbled onto the germ, which turned out to be distantly related to viruses that cause the common cold in human beings.

    Valles said scientists at the department's Horticulture and Breeding Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce, Fla., were analyzing fire ant genes recently when a computer they were using detected a strange sequence that didn't appear to be part of the normal ant genome.

    An international "library" of genetic material showed that the DNA fragment was part of a virus, he said.

    "That little piece of gene gave us a handhold that we used to find the virus in the wild," Valles said. About 23 percent of ant colonies are naturally infected with the virus, he said.

    The researchers dug up several entire colonies, some with the virus and some without, and moved them into a laboratory.

    "Within two or three months all the colonies that had the virus were dead, and the colonies without it were not," he said.
     
  2. moopups

    moopups In Remembrance

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    Does this mean my 'Fire ants are for Yankees' bumper sticker is going to be outdated? :p
     

  3. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    This is interesting, especially since the fire ant is such a terrible pest. I hope something comes of it. Its hard to be too optimistic, though. It might be feasible, but there may be difficulties in getting it to market.

    There was a product presented to the pest control industry with great hopes about 10 years ago. The scientists found a fungus that attacked and killed german roaches. The fungus is naturally occurring and doesn't effect people. They made a little cardboard box with a tiny sponge inside so when the roach entered it would pick up a little fungus and carry it back to it's "nest." All the roaches in the vecinity would catch the fungus and die. They marketed the daylights out of it, got a whole bunch of us to buy into it, only to find out the fungus didn't last long enough on the shelf in the distribution cycle to work in the field. It worked great in the laboratory though.
     
  4. Cygnet

    Cygnet Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The concern I would have is, does the virus affect native ants as well?

    I know in my area, small black "Grease" ants are the # 1 scavenger for dead things -- they can reduce a dead chicken to bones and feathers in about two days. I routinely spray and bait the SAME ants in my yard because they've got a hell of a bite and will attack penned birds and steal grain -- but I'd hate to lose them from the ecosystem entirely. *shrug* there's a place for everything ...

    Leva
     
  5. Buffy in Dallas

    Buffy in Dallas Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Are fire ants the only thing it kills? What if they let it loose just to find out that it kills bees or butterflies or something!!! :eek:
     
  6. Soni

    Soni Well-Known Member

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    Immunity: bacteria, yeah but viruses less so. Viruses are highly mutable little devils and tend to stay ahead of their host's immune reactions and on top of that they're pretty hard to kill without taking out the host, naturally or otherwise (hence tons of antibiotics vs very few antivirals)