Saturday, March 7, 2015

Aerial pest control

I’ve spent a lot of time studying how ant queens fly.  Last summer I launched a project aimed at figuring out how flying ants interact with other organisms in their environment.  In other words, what role do ants play in our atmosphere?

This week The Purple Martin Update—a magazine devoted to purple martin management and conservation—published some early results from that work.  Not only is this my first pop science piece, but it also features the first published artwork by our talented lab artist and mite taxonomist, Brittany Rae Benson.



Flying queens and males of the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) are a nutritious and abundant food source for aerial predators like purple martins (Progne subis).  (Illustration by Brittany Benson)

So what did we learn from our work in southeast Oklahoma?  Turns out, baby purple martins eat tons (literally) of invasive fire ants.  Who knew?

You can read the full article here.

Enjoy!

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