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Researchers Discover Several New Fungal Species That Turn Ants Into Literal Zombies
During the past decade or so, a resurgence in zombie related entertainment has undoubtedly occurred. Popular shows and movies, like the Walking Dead and Sean of the Dead, have shown viewers what living in a post-apocalyptic zombie-world would be like. Although there does indeed exist a US government document that describes how a real-life zombie epidemic should be handled, it is fair to say that most people consider zombies to be a matter of pure fiction. It is difficult to imagine a world where zombies pose a threat to humans. However, for carpenter ants, zombieism is a reality. This blog has described the phenomenon of zombified ants in the past, but now researchers have identified several new fungal species that can also transform healthy ants into zombies. Carpenter ants remain alive in a zombified state for a period of time after contracting a fungal infection, but only to serve their new fungal overlords. In addition to discovering many new zombie-fungal species, researchers are finally understanding how certain fungal-spores can control an ant’s behavior.
Scientists have long been aware of the “zombie-ant” phenomenon, but experts have remained unsure as to the physiological processes behind an ant’s transition into a zombie. Do zombie fungal spores control an ant’s behavior by affecting the ant’s tiny brain? Or do the spores dictate an infected ant’s movements by compromising the ant’s muscles? Are zombified ant’s aware that they are not behaving in accordance with their own will? Luckily, a recent study involving one of the several new zombie-fungal species has shed more light on these mysteries.
Back in 2014, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania located a new species of zombie fungus in the United States. The fungal species is similar to the existing species known as Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. The researchers quickly determined the physiological effects that this new fungal species has on carpenter ants. The new species was found to secrete “mind controlling compounds”. In contrast to most expert theories on this matter, these compounds do not seem to affect the brains of their ant hosts; instead the fungal compounds were found to alter an ant host’s muscle movements. There is still much research to be done on this topic, but at the moment it looks like zombified carpenter ants still possess a working brain in spite of losing complete control over their own movements and actions.
Do you believe that zombified ants can perceive their lack of control over their own bodies?
The Most Difficult Ant-Pest To Control Has Now Reached Every Corner Of The Planet
Ant infestations are probably the most common of all types of insect infestations. In some cases, ants may infest a certain area of a home for years. Ant infestations are not normally addressed with the same degree of urgency as termite infestations. This is because most ant species that invade people’s homes are mostly harmless, but some species can cause problems for homeowners. For example, the Pharaoh ant is believed to be one of the most widely distributed ants in the world as well as the most problematic ant-pest to humans.
Pharaoh ants are considered a major indoor insect pest within the United States. These ants are also considered to be the most troublesome of all insect pests because they cannot be easily eradicated with conventional insecticides and other forms of insect pest control. These ants establish multiple colonies throughout a variety of different man-made structures. These ants are especially attracted to hospitals for reasons that are not entirely clear. In America, Pharaoh ants have been found in numerous hospitals over the years, and these hospital infestations are also considered to be a serious problem in Europe. One group of researchers found that a hospital in Texas had contained significant Pharaoh ant infestations on each of its seven floors. These infestations should not be dismissed as harmless as Pharaoh ants can transmit pathogens that can easily attack hospital patients who have compromised immune systems. In fact, Pharaoh ants can transmit over a dozen pathogens including salmonella, staph, and strep. Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that these ants have been found gravitating toward the drooling mouths of infants kept in hospital maternity wards. These ants are drawn to the mouths of babies in order to retain moisture from their saliva. In addition to that, these ants have even been found trying to penetrate IV bottles that were attached to patients. Eradicating Pharaoh ant infestations are exceedingly difficult as they build their nests in locations that are inaccessible to humans.
Do you think that Pharaoh ants have ever transmitted pathogens to hospital patients?
You Would Not Believe The Number Of Ants That Were Pulled Out Of A Young Girl’s Eye
Only the most secure people can publicly admit to being terrified of insects, spiders and other creepy-crawlies. We all know how ugly some arthropods look, and it seems impossible for any person to not regard at least some types of arthropods as anything but disturbing to look at. If a group of people were to spot a creepy looking insect crawling a mere foot or so away from them, more than half of the group members would almost certainly pretend to be unfazed by the insect’s otherworldly appearance.
When it comes to human attitudes toward insects, it could be said that there exists two types of people in the world. The first group includes people who cannot even manage to think about insects without cringing. This particularly timid group of people cannot go to the bathroom without falling victim to intrusive and unsettling thoughts about terrifying what-if scenarios that involve surprise spider bites. The second type of person is always ready to kill or dispose of scary insects in order to appear brave in front of those who were too frightened of doing the same. Sometimes individuals who claim to be well composed members of the second group cannot help but to recoil when approached by a harmless house-spider. In these situations the so called “fearless” ones are revealed to be normal people with understandable fears. Then again, some people can truly remain stoic and controlled when disposing of a six or eight legged home intruder; some people just don’t seem bothered by the sight or touch of bugs. For example, one particular girl from India has recently fallen victim to a rather unusual and excessively cringeworthy insect-related medical anomaly. The young Indian girl has been removing individual ants from her eyeball everyday now for the past several days. Although this situation would be a bit more than unpleasant for anybody, the girl seems to be accepting the situation with a commendable lack of fear.
A couple of weeks ago an eleven year old girl named Ashwini from India presented a strange and virtually unknown medical condition to a team of perplexed and probably horrified doctors. The girl had multiple ants dwelling within her eyeball. Not long ago Ashwini started to complain about eye-pains. It was soon discovered that Ashwini had an ant lodged in her eye. The ant was removed, but then another ant appeared beneath her eyelid. After removing the first two ants, Ashwini removed a third, then a fourth and so on. Today, ten days later, Ashwini is still removing ants from her eye. According to Ashwini, she pulls out around five or six ants a day from her eyeball. So far Ashwini has removed sixty individual ants from her eyeball in only ten days time. Ashwini’s doctor’s believe that the ants traveled to Ashwini’s eye socket by entering through her ear while she slept. Judging by the girl’s occasional laughter over the strange situation, she seems to be taking this situation better than most of us would. It goes without saying that whether you are afraid of insects or not, you certainly would not be laughing about having an ant infestation within your eyeball.
After learning of this bizarre insect-related medical anomaly, do you think that the frequency at which insects crawl into human orifices during sleeping hours is, in fact, understated as opposed to overstated?
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Fifty Different Species Of Ant Keep Other Ants As Slaves
It is well known that insects are brutal creatures that must resort to violence in order to survive. But it turns out that many ants take acts of savagery unusually far. One species of ant known as Polyergus breviceps keeps other ants as slaves. There are fifty known ant species that demonstrate similar slave-making behaviors. But there are over fifteen thousand species of ant that have been described by scientists, so this particular behavior is considered unusual. However, some researchers believe that many more slave-making ants exist in the world and have yet to be discovered. One species of slave-making ant was discovered in Michigan, Vermont and New York in 2014. Most slave-maker ants commit a series of cunning and brutal acts in order to ensure compliance among their captured slaves.
Many slave-maker ants deploy soldier ants in order to locate and raid other nearby ant colonies. But at least one slave-maker species sees a female ant raiding a nearby ant nest in order to locate a shelter for her offspring. This species is the above mentioned Polyergus breviceps. The female finds a foreign ant nest that contains many pupae that are close to hatching. Once the female locates the proper nest, it will kill all of the adult ants on her own, leaving it alone with the remaining pupa. Once the pupa hatch, the newborns sense the slave-maker female’s pheromones. Instead of recognizing the slave-maker as a foreign intruder, the pheromones fool the offspring into treating the slave-maker as their natural mother. In other words, the female slave-maker ant will kidnap baby ants in order to raise them as its own after killing their parents. The female then inhabits the nest along with her real offspring and her kidnapped adoptees. The kidnapped ants spend their lives grooming the female slave-maker’s eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the slave-maker’s daughters will search for other nests to invade. Once an ideal nest has been found, the daughters return to their mother, and a band of soldier ants are organized in order to raid the nest. This time one adult victim is spared in order to help the slave-maker ants raid other nests before kidnapping more offspring. These ants can use chemical messengers as a method of warfare. The slave-makers possess glands that secrete a chemical that fools victims of different nests into fighting each other instead of the slave-making invaders. These brutal acts are committed repeatedly over the course of the slave-makers lives.
Do you know of any other insect species that resorts to similar slave-making methods?
A Mysterious Eye Condition Is Now Known To Be Caused By An Invasive Ant
There are plenty of medical conditions that have been described in literature that have no known cause. One of these mysterious medical conditions is referred to as leukomas or corneal opacities. The condition involves lesions in the cornea that results in a white discoloration in the eye of humans and some animals. The first reported case of leukomas was noted in 1968. The condition was only found in immigrants from the West Indies. However, it turns out that indigenous tribes from Colombia have long known what caused the eye condition. Now Diego Rosselli, Ph.D., of the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Colombia and James Wetterer, Ph.D., of Florida Atlantic University have collaborated on a study that revealed the cause of the eye condition. It turns out that their results agreed with the claims made by the indigenous Colombian tribes. The cause of Leukomas was a sting from the Wasmannia auropunctata, or the little red fire ant.
After the eye condition was reported in some people from the West Indies, cats from Florida were found with the same eye problem, and then dogs in Brazil. Initially, medical researchers assumed that the eye lesions were caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Later on it was assumed that a parasite that causes river blindness was to blame for the condition. While doctors were guessing how the eye lesions were caused, the indigenous Colombian tribes knew that a sting from the little red fire ant caused the lesions. This is due to the fact that many tribe members had also developed the condition after being stung by the ant.
The little red fire ant originally dwelled in South and Central America. As human trade progressed around the globe, the little red fire ant made its way into new territories. Eventually the little red fire ant would wind up in Florida, Africa, Israel, the Galapagos Islands, the Pacific Islands, Hawaii and Papua New Guinea. The eye lesions are caused by a toxin created by the ant. The lesions often occur when the ant bites as a result of blinking. When people notice the ant on their eye, they blink, which then causes the ant to sting in defense.
Do you think that indigenous knowledge concerning native insects should be taken more seriously by western doctors?
Are There Any Types Of Ants That Can Devour Large Animals, or Crops?
Most of us have seen movies that depict some types of exotic ants as voracious consumers of human flesh. This may seem exaggerated, but who knows? The world is full of dangerous tiny insects. All you have to do is spend some time outdoors in order to see how large ant colonies can become. Given the large size of ant colonies, some ants could potentially eat a human being or another large animal, right? Some of you may have sustained injuries caused by fire-ants. It may not be hard to imagine a colossal amount of fire-ants taking down a small animal, but this is not possible. There may not be any ants that can eat the flesh from a human body, but there must certainly be some ants that are regarded as crop-pests. Well, according to the experts, ants cannot devour a human body. However, there are still a few types of ants that are quite ferocious. Some ants you will want to avoid.
Some sources claim that ants can strip a dead deer of all its flesh within ten minutes, leaving nothing behind but a deer skeleton. There does not exist any types of ants that consume food this efficiently. An animal that is as large as a deer would take days for ants to consume. To give you some perspective, fire-ants can strip a frog to its bare bones in twelve hours.
When it comes to voracious ants, most people are thinking of army ants. The term “army ants” refers to ants that swarm, as opposed to ants that build nests. There are many different species of army ants living all over the world. Perhaps the most ferocious of these army ants is the African species known as Dorylus, more commonly referred to as driver ants. Although these ants are aggressive, they are certainly not as horrific as the ants we encounter in fictional works. However, these ants have been known to feed on certain crops, mostly potato crops. But driver ants typically limit themselves to a diet of insects.
Have you always assumed that a type of “killer ant” existed in nature?
Fire Ants Are Beneficial To The Environment
It may be hard to believe that such pain-inducing insects, like fire ants, are beneficial to the environment. However, the pain associated with certain insect bites has nothing to do with the advantages that certain biting insects bring to certain ecosystems. You may hate fire ants as a result of personal experience, but, the environment, on the other hand, benefits from these hated insects. Fire ants help maintain the health of the landscape, but they also can be pests themselves. Despite the fact that fire ants can be pests, these ants are spoken of positively on the webpage titled Beneficial’s in the Garden & Landscape.
First of all, fire ants are not native to North America, similar to many North American insect pests. Fire ants actually originated in South America. Secondly, fire ants are not picky eaters, as ticks, termites, cockroaches, chinch bugs, scorpions, fleas and most happily, mosquitoes are all devoured by fire ants. Fire ants also consume mosquito eggs in addition to their larvae.
Fire ants also prevent profit-loss in the agricultural sector of the economy. For example, stinkbugs in soybean crops are kept in check by fire ants. Fireants also either kill or prevent boll weevils from consuming cotton crops. Fire ants also promote the growth of soybeans, cotton, and sugarcane. These crops are better off being infested with fire ants because fire ants aerate crop soil. Without fire ants, and the aeration of crop soil, plants would not receive the amount of nutrients and water that crop plants need in order to grow in a healthy manner.
In addition to killing a multitude of insect pests, some of which were not mentioned in this article, fire ants specifically aerate soil by digging underground tunnels and ant holes. Soon fire ants depart their underground homes, leaving the crop-soil thoroughly aerated. Unfortunately, large fire ant dirt mounds can damage farming equipment. Maybe they are upset for not being paid for their agricultural services.
Have you ever been attacked by fire ants? Did they cause you pain? What did the pain feel like?
Fire Ants Build Their Own Versions Of The Eiffel Tower
Fire ants are tiny insects, so when their homes become flooded with water they go into panic mode. It has been mentioned before that many ants are capable of creating rafts made from the bodies of workers and soldiers. These rafts then transport the most important members of the ant colony to dry areas. However, fire ants can avoid being consumed by large amounts of water by building structures that reach beyond the water’s surface. And, much like ant-rafts, these ants use their own bodies as building materials.
One interesting aspect about these particularly tall ant structures is how similar they are to the well known Eiffel tower. For example, different structures have elements that can handle different weights, and all structures differ in this respect. However, the tall structures that fire ants build are similar to the Eiffel tower’s design in that they each bear a similar amount of weight at key structural points.
Tall fire-ant structures are fascinating to researchers due to the sheer amount of ants, or building blocks, necessary to create an upright structure. So do fire ants possess some way of coordinating the manner in which their structures are built? Well, given the number of fire ants serving at key structural support points, one would think that the answer to the above question would be “yes, ants must have a collective blueprint in mind”.
According to Craig Tovey, an engineering professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, fire ants do not have a collective “hive” mind; instead each ant in a colony acts in accordance with its own impulses. Also, there is no queen ant issuing orders to the worker and soldier ants concerning how their structures should be built. Further research has revealed that ants simply climb atop one another until their structures collapse, but a surprising amount of structural integrity is maintained for long periods of time.
It looks like these ants build their structures by resorting to trial and error, and by following simple rules. For example, ants that have other ants perched atop of them do not move. Secondly, ants that are perched atop of other ants, but with no other ants on top of them, can move in a manner that facilitates the building process. Also, if an opening should appear within an ant structure, such an opening would be filled by other ants in order to decrease the chances of collapse. By following these rules, these ant structures can become surprisingly tall.
Have you ever covered an anthill only to find alternate anthills appear in the same area later on?