Predatory flies attack fire ants
By Tom Lollis
A cooperative effort with USDA-Agricultural Research Service is releasing predatory flies to reduce fire ant populations in the Southeast. The flies lay eggs in the ants’ heads, causing the heads to fall off as the larvae grow. Only the imported fire ants are targeted; no other species are affected.
The latest release of predatory flies was in October at Boone Hall Plantation near Charleston. Since 1998, two species of predatory flies have been successfully released on the Clemson campus and six other sites across South Carolina. Two more species are in the pipeline for delivery from the USDA laboratory in Gainesville, Florida.
“Our plan is to let the flies spread naturally from strategic locations around the state,” said Tim Davis, Clemson Extension fire ant specialist. He is encouraged by signs that the flies are spreading. They have been found seven miles from a release point in Fairfield County in just two years. The earliest release sites in Florida have spread as much as 30 miles per year.
“I’m very impressed,” said Chip Limehouse, Representative for S.C. House District 110. “If this works, it could be one of the silver bullets we’ve been looking for to deal with the terrible fire ant problem in South Carolina.”
Biology alone won’t be enough to control fire ants, Davis said. A combination of fire ant baits and other chemicals, plus biological controls, will be needed to reduce populations to more manageable levels.