Attack of the Fire Ants; February 1999; Scientific American Magazine; by Hayashi; 2 Page(s)
Fire ants, aptly named for their burning stings, have long been an infernal pest in the southern U.S., destroying crops, displacing other insects and terrorizing small mammals and people. The aggressive insects have also invaded the Galapagos Islands and parts of the South Pacific, including New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands. Now scientists fear that one species of the ant-Wasmannia auropunctata-might be wreaking havoc in West Africa, possibly blinding elephants there.
Commonly called the little fire ant, Wasmannia is a distant relative of Solenopsis wagneri (formerly invicta), the foreign species that has plagued the southern U.S. It is widely believed that the ants have emigrated from their native Central and South America mainly through human commerce, which is why they are sometimes referred to as tramp ants. One theory for Wasmannia's recent appearance in Melanesia is that the ants were stowaways on ships transporting heavy logging equipment from South America to other project sites in the Pacific.