Science  14 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6172, pp. 715

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  1. Invasive Fire Ants Meet Their Match


    A tawny ant reaches for antivenom on its abdomen.


    For 60 years, imported red fire ants have terrorized people, livestock, and native ants as they spread in large numbers across the southeastern United States, aggressively stinging those who got in the way and proving nearly invincible. But another foreigner, the invasive tawny crazy ant, can detoxify the fire ant's deadly venom and, for the past decade, has been moving into fire ant territories, Edward LeBrun, an ecologist at the University of Texas, Austin, and his colleagues report online this week in Science. In Texas, LeBrun had noticed unusual grooming-like behavior by tawny crazy ants that fire ants had swiped with their stingers laden with venom drops. He discovered that the tawny ants were wiping themselves down with their own venom to counter the chemical attack. It's unclear how or when these ants took up this defense, says Michael Kaspari, an entomologist at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, but it looks like "this 60-year dynasty of the fire ants [in the United States] is coming to a close, and it's coming to a close in a fairly unusual way."