Posts Tagged ‘Ant Removal’

Slave-making Ants Go After the Strong Rather Than the Weak

Friday, June 17th, 2016

Scientists used to assume that slavemaker ants would target weak colonies when sending their raiding parties to steal away pupae. However, they have recently discovered that they actually choose to go after fewer stronger colonies rather than targeting more weak ones. The ants associate strong defenses with stronger ant populations. By choosing to go after fewer strong ant colonies, the ants actually end up limiting their risk and coming away with more pupae to enslave.

Slavemaker ant colonies don’t actually have their own workforce. Instead they are made up of raider ants that go after other ants’ pupae and take to them back to their own colony to use as their workforce. In a study conducted by Sebastian Pohl and his team, researchers discovered that rather than target weak colonies to get their workforce, these ants actually choose to raid a fewer number of strong colonies. This is because losing one of these worker or raider ants can amount to losing the large number of slaves they would likely bring back to their colony. So, it makes more sense for them to target a fewer number of strong colonies, and limit the risk they take when performing a raid. The scout ants associate the strong colonies with a higher number of pupae and therefore a higher benefit when they go on a raid.

Do you think it is smarter for the slavemaker ants to go after strong colonies rather than weak ones?

Ant School Teachers

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Ant School Teachers

Human adults teach their young how to fend for themselves in this world through demonstration and hands on activities. Apparently, adult ants teach their young pupils in much the same way, taking them out on foraging quests and teaching them how to find food.

A new study revealed that ants teach their young how to forage for food using a “tandem running” technique that involved poking and prodding between the teacher and pupil. Female worker ants will take an inexperienced ant out with them on a foraging expedition, using tandem running to pass the knowledge onto the young ant. The experienced ant will lead the pupil through the forest to forage for food. The pupil learns by following and then stopping every so often to study landmarks along the way, while the teacher moves forward. Once the student ant is done exploring they will run to catch up to the teacher and tap her on the hind legs, letting her know he or she is ready for more.

The process is highly controlled, with the two ants constantly keeping tabs on how large the gap is between them. When the gap gets too large either the teacher will slow down to allow the student to catch up or the student will stop their exploration to run and catch up to the teacher. This instruction from a lead ant helps the students to learn how to find food much more quickly.

Can you think of similar teaching methods humans use with their young?

Many Allergic to Fire Ant’s Sting Don’t Get Preventive Shots

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

USNews.com: Many Allergic To Fire Ant’s Sting Don’t Get Preventive Shots

For some people, a sting from the ubiquitous fire ant can provoke potentially severe reactions, but a new study finds that only one-third of people with such allergies get shots that can ease the danger.

“Patients are fearful of the injections, and often feel that the time investment will never pay off in the long run,” said one expert, Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Allergy shots to protect against fire ant stings are typically given monthly to provide the best protection. This treatment has been shown to prevent allergy progression and to reduce the risk of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can be deadly.

However, “the time commitment is significant and typically involves monthly injections over a 3- to 5-year period,” said Glatter, who was not involved in the new study.

So, despite the potential benefit, the new study found that only 35 percent of patients with fire ant allergies continued to get allergy shots after one year. Inconvenience and fear were among the reasons why they stopped getting the treatment.

The findings were published in the March issue of the journalAnnals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

“Immunotherapy is proven to be safe and efficient at treating allergic diseases,” study lead author Dr. Shayne Stokes, chief of allergy and immunology at Luke AFB in Arizona, said in a news release from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “It can also result in health care savings of 33 to 41 percent.”

Fire ants are common throughout the southeastern United States. People who have had an allergic reaction to a fire ant sting in the past have a 60 percent chance of experiencing a similar or more severe reaction if stung again, according to the ACAAI.

Symptoms of a fire ant allergy can include: hives, itching and swelling in areas other than the sting site; abdominal cramping, intense nausea, vomiting or diarrhea; tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing; hoarse voice or swelling of the tongue or throat, or difficulty swallowing; anaphylaxis, which can include dizziness, a sharp drop in blood pressure or cardiac arrest.

“The reality is that if allergy shots for fire ant stings were utilized more often, patients would have milder reactions if a sting occurred — and thus a lower chance or need for a visit to an emergency department,” Glatter said. “The subsequent risk for anaphylaxis would also be significantly reduced. Overall, the need for other ‘rescue medications’ to treat the allergic reactions from the fire ants — including steroids and epinephrine — may potentially be reduced as well.”

People who have an allergic reaction should seek immediate medical help and follow up with an allergist, the ACAAI said.

Glatter said that “patients with asthma, sleep apnea, COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] and other chronic lung diseases may be at added risk for airway compromise should a subsequent reaction occur, and should be considered for [the allergy shots].”

Two million Americans are allergic to insect stings, an allergy that sends more than 500,000 people to hospital emergency rooms each year.

WCNC-TV (Charlotte, NC): Airport Uses Coffee Grounds to Keep Ants Away

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Would you use coffee grounds to keep the ants away?

Fire ant control

Ant Control ~ Bug Busters USA

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Ant Control

Ants forecast forests’ future

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Ants and other insects may not be the first things you spot on a walk in the woods, but N.C. State biologist Rob Dunn believes they have something important to say about the future of forests under climate change.

In forests in North Carolina and Massachusetts, Dunn and his colleagues built a series of 15-foot-wide enclosures, warmed to simulate temperature increases predicted for the coming decades.

The enclosures are part of a five-year, $3 million study funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to forecast the effects of rising temperatures on Eastern forests and the creatures that live there. The NCSU-led team is collaborating with researchers at the University of Tennessee, Harvard University and the University of Vermont to see if predictions for plants and animals are likely to come true.

Average annual temperatures in the Southeastern United States have risen by 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970 and could rise by up to 10 degrees before the end of the century, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

“Some models predict that in 2100, the climate of Massachusetts will resemble that of North Carolina, and that of North Carolina will resemble Central Mexico,” Dunn said.

To forecast how ants and other forest insects might respond to a warming world, Dunn and his colleagues have spent the past two years building a dozen open-top enclosures in a part of the Duke Forest, an expanse of hardwoods and pines in Orange County.

Inside each octagonal enclosure lies an area the size of a living room, walled off with translucent plastic. The enclosures are heated to temperatures predicted for 2025, 2050 and 2100.

“We’re simulating the future and seeing how it plays out,” Dunn said.

A micro-world of creatures

Site manager Mark Boudreau crawls into one of the enclosures. Moisture and temperature sensors poke out of the understory, while a slow pulse of warm air blows in through clear plastic tubes.

“If you hold your hand under these, you feel warm air seeping out,” Boudreau said.

Buried under logs and leaf litter lies a micro-world – hundreds of red, black and brown ants crawl in and out of the enclosure as they forage across the forest floor. “So far we’ve found 29 ant species across the entire site,” Boudreau said.

Ants may seem like trivial players, but they play a big role in maintaining forest health. Representing 40 percent of the animal biomass in many forests, they mix and aerate the soil and recycle nutrients. More than one-third of forest flowers rely on ants to disperse their seeds.

“The seeds of many of our most spectacular spring flowers, such as bloodroot and trillium, are dispersed by ants,” said project investigator Nicholas Gotelli of the University of Vermont.

As winters warm and seasons shift, many species might be on the move. The two sites near Hillsborough and Harvard Forest in Massachusetts represent the southern and northern range limits for many plant and animal species, Dunn said.

Many species are making their way into areas where once they were unable to survive. That means forests are likely to support a different mix of species in the future than they do today.

Invasive fire ants spreading

Some new neighbors are less welcome than others.

“The South American fire ant is now found throughout the Southeastern U.S., and the European fire ant is beginning to bother picnickers and homeowners in Maine and Massachusetts,” Gotelli said.

As foreign pests expand their range, they can displace native species that play vital roles as partners for other forest plants and animals.

“All too often the invasive ants displace the native ants, but they don’t perform the critical functions that native ants provide,” said co-investigator Nathan Sanders of the University of Tennessee.

Dunn and his collaborators are taking a monthly census of the species in the enclosures at each site to document changes in where ants live and how they forage.

Preliminary experiments in smaller plots suggest that even moderate warming can have a big effect.

“We did a different experiment with one degree of warming, and saw almost a doubling of ant abundance in just three months,” Dunn said.

Ants in the lab

Back in the lab, Dunn takes a glass-topped case from a shelf to reveal hundreds of ants mounted on tiny pins, neatly labeled and arranged in rows.

“In our preliminary experiment, this particular group became much more common,” he said, pointing to an inconspicuous ant called Crematogaster lineolata.

The study’s findings are important not just because ants are a fundamental part of healthy forests, said Dunn, but also because they might function as an early warning system for environmental threats to human beings.

“Ants and other social insects can serve as a model of how societies in general – be they human or insect – respond to environmental change,” Dunn said.

“Ants are widely used as indicator species – as go ants, so go other species,” wrote co-investigator Aaron Ellison and post-doctoral researcher Shannon Pelini of Harvard University.

As the researchers continue studying ants, they are also looking at how entire insect communities – not just ants – respond to warming. This summer the group will study beetles, millipedes, wasps, flies, moths, termites, roaches and other small creatures – some beneficial, some problematic, but most just doing the work they have long done to persist.

Whether they be lice, dust mites or centipedes, Dunn admits to having a fascination with creatures that give most people the creeps.

“Most animals on earth are insects,” Dunn said.

“They’re the ones that carry disease, but they also pollinate our crops.

“The consequences of climate change that have the most immediate effects on us are likely to be mediated by these smaller creatures that many people don’t like as much.”

Many people, that is, aside from Dunn.

rsmith@nescent.org