Sunday, 15 November 2009




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Find out What’s New At Mann Lake right Here

By Alan Harman

A new threat to honey bees in the form of an invasive ant species is spreading out from Houston, Texas.

    Sam Houston State University entomologist Jerry Cook says scientists are at a loss to explain the fast and furious spread of the rapacious Rasberry ants, named after exterminator Tom Rasberry, who discovered them in 2002.

   The ants were discovered in Houston in 2002 and have quickly spread as far north as Louisiana and Mississippi within the last year.

   “This is a species that we do not know much about. Presumably the ant came from the Caribbean through the Port of Houston,” Cook says. “We know the ant is in the Paratrechina genus and is capable of growing a population of billions and they need to eat. They especially like other bugs, like fire ants and honey bees.”

   Cook says the population is growing so fast, and so large, that it is potentially an ecosystem disaster.

   “If the Rasberry ant can virtually eliminate a pain like the fire ant, what else is it capable of doing?” he asks. “If bees are eliminated, plants will not be pollinated which could result to the lack of crops producing fruits and vegetables. That in turn becomes a major problem for the agriculture community. They could become more than a nuisance, they could become a danger.”

   The Rasberry ant does not have a stinger and cannot inject venom into a person's body; however, it does have formic acid, which creates an irritant reaction rather than a painful poison reaction.

   “The bite of the Rasberry ant is far less painful than a fire ant's,” Cook says. “Essentially you can get covered with them, and it might freak you out.”

   The population of the Rasberry ant is constantly growing and scientists have not yet discovered a way to eliminate them.

   "Without research, we won't discover a solution, and without proper funding we're not likely to get much research,” Cook says.

   With a research grant, government or otherwise, scientists could reach out to the community to include industries, such as pest control, to develop products and strategies that could control or even eliminate them.

   Insecticides will reduce the population and remove them for about a week, but there is no known treatment that will eliminate them for good.

   “If we would have had those grants a year ago, we may have been able to start a program that would have eliminated them but now it is probably beyond that point," Cook says.

   “Until then, we need to learn how to live with them because the Rasberry, like the fire ant, is here to stay.”

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