Eric Keller is a computer animator by day and a bug nerd by night. Now he's found a way to combine his two passions by using his CGI skills to explore entomology. In the first episode of his series, "Entomology Animated," he uses stunning 3D graphics to explain the biology of the fire ant's painful sting.
The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) is a native of South America, but as its name suggests, the critter has managed to invade North America, Australia, the Caribbean and eastern Asia. Their status as "pest" isn't just because of their venom-filled sting; their nests can disrupt agricultural processes. The ants' mounds destroy plant roots and can muck up mechanical cultivation processes, both of which lead to a loss of crops. They also eat just about everything else. When they're gobbling up other pests, that's arguably a good thing; when they're chowing down on native pollinators it's undeniably bad.
Either way, they're captivating little critters, with – as you'll learn in the video above – a set of quite clever behaviours meant to subdue their opponents.
Top header image: Alex Wild produced by the University of Texas "Insects Unlocked" program.