Stinging ants aren't all bad,
but don't try to convince Brazil
This will sound like a science
A U.S. Department of Agricul.
luec publication mentions that.
"Millions of aggressive, stinging
ants overran a small city In the
Amazon rain forest, invading
homes. schools, churches and
stores. Nothing seems to stop
But to the people of Envira.
Brazil. it's not a movie, It's real
The U10.000 people who live in
the small riverbank town In the
Amazon rein forest have been
strugglng against a booming popu-
lation of fire ants. This outbreak of
ants wanted several years ago. when
the townspeople noticed tiny, red.
dish.brown ants foraging for food.
After they were unable to control
these ants. the Brazilian govern-
ment asked USDA ant experts for
American scientists not only
wanted to help the Brazilian gov-
emment but also o determine why
fire ants. which now are a pest
problem In the southern United
states. had taken over the small
town in the Amazon rain forest.
David Williams. a research cnto-
mologist, said when he got In Envl-
ra. Brazil. "It is not an exaggeration
to say that the ants were over-run.
ning the place."
"I found some colonies with
more than a million ants Inside." he
continued. "I have been studying
fire ants for 17 years, and I have
never seen anything like It."
USDA scientists in Brazil found
that clearing of the Amazon rain
forest outside envirs created an
ideal environment for fire ants.
which thrive when natural habitats
What happens is that the forest
serves as a source of for the
fire ant. As more forest is cleared
near the town. the ant population
Increased. causing competition for
foct to become greater Thus. the
natural balance of the forest ecosys-
tem became unbalanced because of
the large-scale deforestation of the
Amazon rain forest.
I noticed that during this year's
'" See OLASEE. facing pae
OLASEE coMNTUED FROM PAGE 2
Ants help enrich the soil
hurricane season, certain species of
insects became more prevalent in
the territory. What does this tell us?
This hurricane season affects the
islands* ecology so much that
insects that you normally hardly see
are more noticeable.
Many people with whom I've
come in contact lately have said
that hey frequently see ants in their
houses. The black ants around your
kitchen are called local sugar ants.
You often find them in your sugar
or eating some sweet thing. Believe
me. any kind of food you leave out
in the kitchen without proper pro-
tection, the sugar ants will find it.
These ants. however, would not run
you out of your house like the fire
ants in Brazil.
We do have stinging ants in the
Virgin Islands, however. These ants
are very aggressive and will deliver
fiery stings. For this reason, many
Caribbean people called them fire
ants. Other names are "biting ants,"
"red ants." "wild ants" and "hormi-
go brava." These ants are some of
the most common pests you find in
According to Dr. Walter I.
Knausenberger. an entomologist.
"stinging ants can sting repeatedly
and will vigorously attack things
that disturb them. Their venom is
severely painful to most people and
livestock." Certain people who are
allergy-prone can become sensi-
tized if they got stung repeatedly.
People who are extremely sensitive
may suffer chest pains, nausea or
even lapse into a coma from a sting.
Stinging ants can damage young
plants by gnawing the roots, stalks
and fruits. But stinging ants also are
beneficial to man. They help bury
and transform dead. decaying ani-
mals and plant materials.
They enrich the soil by Increas-
ing the availability of certain plant
nutrients. They also are known to
eliminate certain insect pests in
your garden. Knauscnberger men-
tioned that. "in Puerto Rico. the
brown fire ants have been shown to
destroy over 90 percent of the
potential house fly population by
preying on the maggots and eggs."
The ant population is regulated
naturally by birds, lizards. toads or
1E:3od13r s 10 /13 / ?'