Stories tagged fire ants

It's Friday. Yes, I know I missed it last week. But it's time for a new Science Friday video.

Science Friday
Science FridayCourtesy Science Friday
This week,
"The latest on the bug beat: To survive floods, fire ants band together to form a raft. They can sail for weeks. But how does the raft stay afloat? Researchers report the answer in PNAS this week. Plus, engineers at Tufts are looking to the caterpillar for inspiration for soft-bodied robots. The problem is that squishy bodies make it difficult to move quickly--but some caterpillars have developed a workaround."

Look, all I want is a baby bird to eat now and again: Is that too much to ask?  (photo by challiyan on
Look, all I want is a baby bird to eat now and again: Is that too much to ask? (photo by challiyan on
Really, funny is the wrong word. More like… “delightfully appropriate,” maybe. News that“fire ants eat baby songbirds is like finding out that piranhas love the taste of puppies, that killer bees particularly hate your grandparents, or that (insert childhood fear here) wants to kill (insert cute and utterly harmless thing here).

I guess it’s not all that ironic, because, really, what else do you expect fire ants to do?

Anyhow, a recently completed study at Texas A&M University seems to indicate that as many as a fifth of baby songbirds are killed by fire ants before they leave the nest. If you’re a baby bird (you probably aren’t, but if you were) your chances for survival aren’t all that wonderful in the first place (about 30%), but if you live in fire ant territory, things are even worse.

Although it wasn’t ever mentioned in the Disney song, fire ants eating baby birds is all part of the circle of life, and there probably isn’t much to be done about it in general. In certain cases, however, the research could assist management practices for endangered and threatened bird species – by treating the branches of known nesting sites with a pesticide, some baby birds can be saved from death by fire ant, and therefore have that much better of a chance of surviving to adulthood.