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February 11th, 2001

Internal Decapitation

Internal Decapitation

(… that would be a good name for a death metal band…)

In the 1930’s, South American red fire ants found their way to the southern United States by way of a cargo ship. Since then, they have caused much annoyance to southerners and even killed a few (about six a year!). One elderly woman died as the fire ants infiltrated her bed and bit her over a thousand times. These little buggers are, quite literally, a pain.

The ants are slowly, but surely, moving northward and westward, and scientists are concerned at the problems these ants could cause if they were to spread across the entire country. But, thanks to a special kind of gnat-like fly, these ants may have a tough future ahead of them.

In a laboratory study, scientists set the fly loose on a number of red fire ants. After hovering above an ant, the fly swoops down and injects an egg into the ant’s body. The ant is stunned momentarily, but goes about its business. In time, the egg hatches into a maggot that finds its way to the ant’s head and feeds on its juices. When the maggot’s ready to grow up, it eats away at the cuticle in the ant’s neck, causing the head to fall off. The maggot feeds on the fly brain and makes its home in the head for a few weeks until it’s a full-blown fly.

Wow — that’s way cool.

Read up on this fascinating fly and imagine what you would do if you had these abilities.

Thanks to lurker John G. for the pointer. -ram

Posted in Miscellaneous

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