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Border crossing: 10 things to know about invasive fire ants on the march

At left is a newly emerged fire ant queen, ready to disperse and establish a new colony.
Heading for a summer picnic or hike, or just out to mow your lawn? In the U.S. Southeast and beyond, you might want to watch where you walk. Fire ants. Crossing the border from South America, they're on the march northward. How does habitat -- in particular, corridors that connect one place with another--help the ants spread? To find out, the National Science Foundation talked with ecologist and program director Doug Levey of its Division of Environmental Biology, and researcher Julian Resasco, now of the University of Colorado, Boulder (formerly at the University of Florida, Gainesville). Resasco, Levey and colleagues recently published a paper in the journal Ecology reporting new findings on habitat corridors and fire ants. They conducted their NSF-funded study in an experimental forest in South Carolina, at the USDA Forest Service - Savannah River site. Fire ants are very aggressive, have painful stings, and can occur at high densities. They can displace native ants and other kinds of small animals, including reptiles, birds, and mammals.

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