The worldwide explosion of red imported fire ants can be traced almost entirely to the southern United States. Native to South America, the ants had been contained there and in the southeastern U.S. before turning up in faraway places in the last 20 years—including California, China, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand.
Using several types of molecular genetic markers to trace the origins of ants in nine locations where recent invasions occurred, researchers at the University of florida traced all but one of the invasions to the southern U.S.
Fire ants are highly aggressive, have a painful sting, and are often only discovered after someone steps on a mound. Americans spend more than $6 billion a year to control the ants and offset damage they cause, including medical expenses.
Full story at Futurity.
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Photo credit: Jeff Gage, University of Florida