True Medical Stories of Bites and Stings
By Pamela Nagami ’72, M.D.
St. Martin’s Press, 2004
352 pages • $24.95
The following excerpt is from page 9 of Chapter One, titled “Invincible
“Fire ants attack not only plants and animals. Attracted to the heated
asphalt, they build mounds under rural roads, which then collapse as the
undermined soil subsides. In 1977, a survey of forty miles of roadway in
North Carolina revealed an average of twenty fire ant colonies per mile,
with some undermining of the road at each location.
“Solenopsis invicta, the most pragmatic of creatures, has one peculiar
trait. It is attracted to anything electrical. Fire ants, like bees,
have tiny deposits of iron in their bodies and are, in fact, slightly
ferromagnetic. But scientists are puzzled as to why fire ants enjoy
being shocked by electric currents so much. Researchers at the
University of Texas in El Paso set up special electric boxes, each with
sixteen sets of copper points. They then put about four hundred worker
fire ants in each box and turned on the current. Whether AC or DC, once
the voltage reached fifty, the ants started swarming over the points.
Even three hundred and fifty volts of direct current was not too hot for
them. But it had to be electricity—electromagnetic fields, ozone, or
wire insulation left the ants indifferent. ...”