Are fire ants beneficial in any way?

As I attempt to fight back hordes of the nasty, stinging little critters that have currently invaded my office, and contemplate how I routinely have to store opened bags of potato chips in the fridge at home to keep the little buggers from getting at them, I find myself thinking that maybe a nuclear winter wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. Since that’s not a very charitable attitude, I’m willing to be convinced that fire ants are somehow valuable to the ecosystem.

So can anyone tell me, are fire ants good for anything?

They come in handy when you’ve got your enemy naked, tied spreadeagle, and doused with honey…

google: fire ants benefits

Florida State Researcher Defends Fire Ants

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates fire ant damage and control total $6 billion a year. But even critics concede they also can be beneficial by killing other insect pests.”

Fire ants are a good research topic, plus, they are loveable.

In North America? No, probably not. Besides being a pest to humans, they also drive out native ants, and may change the local ecosystem and affect nutrient cycling.

In their native range in South America they may be beneficial to humans in some way, but I doubt it.

But of course, fire ants are only interested in being beneficial to themselves, and they are very very good at it.

Nobody expects you to have to tolerate fire ants in your office. Hoever they are God’s creatures too and if He hadn’t thought their design was “good” He wouldn’t have designed them that way. :wink:

Oh, come on - fire ants have a perfectly good benefit: They convince a lot of people that it’s bad to exercise, if they might encounter fire ant nests while doing sit-ups.*

This lack of exercise helps to lead to the ‘epidemic’ of obesity in this country.

Which will lead to an upswing in heart disease and other premature terminations of those without the genetics to handle the extra mass.

Thus preventing those who check out early from getting Alzheimer’s Disease.

See - fire ants prevent Alzheimer’s Disease!
*Not that I’d know anything about that. Nor about swelling up like a balloon. Nor about popping a button off my uniform shirt. Not me. Never.

They’re pretty awful, but I did notice that, in my garden in Mississippi, their old nests had really made the crappy clay soil fairly friable. The fact that they can deal with really bad soil and still tunnel through is another scary part of their plot to overthrow the world, though, and doesn’t outweigh their bad traits.

Still, one afternoon I watched a batch of fire ants prepare for their winged compadres to take off. It was really amazing, like a busy airport…the winged ants were thouroughly attended too by their sisters, a big production. I give em an A plus for industriousness, and sneaky infiltration. Biological success story. They work damn hard at what they do.

Invasive as all git out though, ruthless, displace and harm other critters. That’s a nasty way to be, and one worth noting in any thought of a particular species bulldozing it’s way through the world.

The WSJ just had an article on this yesterday (article requires a $$$ subscription) saying that the drought in Texas has reduced the fire ant population significantly, and some ranchers actually want them back. Among the reasons are:

  1. They kill and eat numerous other pests. One rancher commented he’s now seeing ear ticks in his cattle which he hasn’t seen in over 30 years. However, the correlation with the decline of the fire ant and the increase in other pests is not yet proven.

  2. The ants dig through a lot of soil, apparently moreso than earthworms. This makes plantlife around fire ant mounds often healthier.

  3. Worker productivity is apparently higher because no one stands around anymore. However, this comment may have been made tongue-in-cheek.

Before the fall of man, they could talk; they only ate lightly-steamed spinach (which they cooked for themselves); they behaved with impeccable manners and they could lift one Billion times their own weight - allowing Adam and Eve to use them as a mode of transport.

I hope that clears up the question of their proper place in the universe.

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Er, and those are the benefits, apparently.

Well, if nothing else, they are presumably a food source for birds or other insectivores.

Rather like humans in that regard. :wink:

From the article linked to above:

Tschinkel mentions another benefit of fire ants:

[QUOTE=Colibri]
Rather like humans in that regard. :wink:

Glad, and I knew you’d get it. Thanks for the additional quotes.

Fire ants eat termites, according to this site.

I can live with the fire ants if they will keep the termites away.

Wait. Colibri, isn’t the OP about niches that fire ants fill, places in various food chains that they occupy, positions within various ecosystems they take, etc. ?
Isn’t he looking for ANY good reason to help him justify their existence? Clearly, their presence on the orb indicates some function(s) in the greater scheme. What preys on these little buggars? How DO they fit in?

Or it might just show that God’s inordinate fondness for beetles extends to other six legged creatures as well.

I don’t see why you conclude that God brought fire ants to earth. It’s a well-known fact that Satan created house centipedes, for instance.

It’s possible that the earth is here for THEM and WE are the pests. Edward O. Wilson said (iirc) that if we were to render up all the earth’s biomass into a chemical soup, the dominant chemical in that soup would be formic acid, produced by ants.

I don’t know if that claim takes bacteria into consideration. :slight_smile:

Sailboat

Oooo, where can I get a copy of that, it sounds fascinating. :rolleyes:

Honestly, 723 pages!? Get a life.