Ant - I Fungus

12 December 2004


A newly-identified fungus discovered by scientists in the US may provide

the perfect Trojan Horse for getting rid of ant and termite infestations

without needing to resort to pesticides or dangerous chemicals. Previous

attempts to use fungi to wipe out unwanted nests of ants and termites

have failed because the animals normally avoid fungi like the plague,

because the spores can proove lethal to the colony. They even post guards

to sniff out and bar infected individuals from the nest. But before it

produces any lethal spores, the newly discovered fungus secretes a substance

which ants and termites find irrestible. They collect it and carry it

back to the nest, and have even been known to turn it into a bed for the

queen. Shortly afterwards, however, the fungus begins to produce spores

which infect and kill every member of the nest. Even better, once the

nest has been wiped out, the smell of the residual spores deters re-infestations

by fresh colonies of insects. Paul Stamets, who made the discovery and

has now set up a company to commercialise his green means of pest control,

is currently screening different strains of the fungus to find specimens

which are slower to begin spore production, which would provide sufficient

time for nests to become loaded with fungus to ensure efficient and complete

destruction of the occupants.


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