Science: Texans study a fungus and “crazy ants”

The Story:

A fungus has been spreading rapidly among a certain invasive species of ants in the southeastern states of The United States. Scientists say this is good news for the broader ecological system: the ants, a species colloquially known as “tawny crazy ants,” native to South America, have themselves posed a threat to that ecosystem.


Over the two decades since their arrival in the United States, the tawny crazy ants, formally known as Nylanderia fulva, have become a threat to local wildlife from Texas to Florida.

Last year, researchers affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin reported on some good news. A fungus specific to Nylanderia fulva has appeared. “We do not yet know how this pathogen got into US tawny crazy ant populations,” the team reported, “but we have not found it infecting native ants or other arthropods in nature or in the laboratory.”

Strange New Worlds:

The significance of invasive species is often discussed in the popular press in apocalyptic terms. And it is true that such ‘invasions’ can do real harm. But it is important not to learn the wrong lesson. It is not the optimal approach for humans to step into the affected area with a lot of pesticides and let loose. The local ecology may well possess adaptive resources that will address the matter. Human efforts may well be brought to bear to assist the local defense forces.

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