Parasitic flies turn fire ants into zombies
|May 19, 2009||Posted by Jeffery J. Smith under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Parasitic flies turn fire ants into zombies
In German Suburb, Life Goes On Without Cars
Environmental problems are largely land-use issues. We trim, blend, and append three 2009 articles from: (1) the New York Times, May 11, on car-free by Elisabeth Rosenthal; (2) BBC News, May 12, a veggie city by Chris Mason; and (3) Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 12, on fire ants by Bill Hanna.
by Elisabeth Rosenthal and by Chris Mason and by Bill Hanna
- In German Suburb, Life Goes On Without Cars
On the verdant streets of Vauban, an upscale community on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders, the swish of bicycles and the chatter of wandering children drown out the occasional distant motor.
Vaubans streets are completely car-free — except the main thoroughfare, where the tram to downtown Freiburg runs, and a few streets on one edge of the community.
Not only in developed countries but also in the developing world, emissions from an increasing number of private cars owned by the burgeoning middle class are choking cities.
In Vauban, but there are only two places to park — large garages at the edge of the development, where a car-owner buys a space, for $40,000, along with a home. Street parking, driveways, and home garages are generally forbidden.
Completed in 2006 and home to 5,500 residents within a rectangular square mile, its stores are placed a walk away, on a main street, rather than in malls along some distant highway. The town is long and relatively narrow, so that the tram into Freiburg is an easy walk from every home.
Most residents have carts that they haul behind bicycles for shopping trips or childrens play dates. For trips to stores like IKEA or the ski slopes, families buy cars together or use communal cars rented out by Vaubans car-sharing club.
Seventy percent of Vaubans families do not own cars, and 57 percent sold a car to move here. More than half vote for the German Green Party.
Most zoning laws in the United States still require two parking spaces per residential unit.
JJS: Better than planning might be geonomics — public recovery of location values. Then landowners would feel spurred to put their sites to best use, which in cities would squeeze out cars. And itd leave room for suburban farms which, once we eliminate subsides (another page from geonomics) for agri-biz, mostly would be organic.
- Belgian city plans ‘veggie’ days
The Belgian city of Ghent is about to become the first in the world to go vegetarian at least once a week.
Starting this week there will be a regular weekly meatless day, in which civil servants and elected councillors will opt for vegetarian meals. Schoolchildren will follow suit with their own veggiedag in September.
Ghent means to cut its environmental footprint, help tackle obesity, and recognize the impact of livestock on the environment.
JJS: Livestock occupy land and cattlemen receive subsides. If instead we used geonomics, stockmen would compensate society for the land they use, and for any abuse to the land. Yet like the rest of the citizenry, theyd not pay taxes on earnings while getting back a dividend, so the tug toward husbanding the land would be gentle. If society mandates responsible behavior, it motivates land users to find tools that alter natural balance the least and keep our land use within an ecosystems carrying capacity.
- Parasitic flies turn fire ants into zombies
Fire ants cost the Texas economy about $1 billion annually by damaging circuit breakers and other electrical equipment, according to a Texas A&M study. They can also threaten young calves.
The tiny phorid fly, native to a region of South America where fire ants in Texas originated, attack fire ants. The flies “dive-bomb” them and lay eggs. The maggot that hatches inside the ant eats away at the brain.
Fire ants wander aimlessly away from the mound. About a month after the egg is laid, the ant’s head falls off, it dies, and the fly emerges ready to attack any foraging ants.
Rob Plowes, a research associate at UT, said fire ants are “very aware” of these tiny flies. “Just one or two can control movement or above-ground activity,” Plowes said. “It’s kind of like a medieval activity where you’re putting a castle under siege.”
It’s not an immediate impact. Determining whether the phorid flies will work will take time, perhaps as long as a decade.
It is the fourth species introduced in Texas. Researchers began introducing them in 1999. The first species has traveled all the way from Central and South Texas to the Oklahoma border.
The flies, which are USDA approved, do not attack native ants or species and have been introduced in other Gulf Coast states. Despite initial concerns, farmers and ranchers have let researchers use their property to establish colonies.
Flies are not going to completely wipe out the fire ant, but it’s a way to control their population.
JJS: Without harmful chemicals.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
What’s the matter with Michigan?
Lose the excess from figure and market
Same old story — less habitat, more pollution
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