Rising cases of ant attacks on farmers

Entomologist deputed to identify species in Nengkhra region

TURA: Rising cases of attacks on humans by an unidentified species of ants have compelled the administration in East Garo Hills to depute an entomologist to the Nengkhra region to identity the species behind the incidents where farmers have been targeted while venturing into their fields for cultivation or entering the forests in search of firewood.
It is suspected that the attacking species of ants are not a local variety and may have been brought, accidentally or otherwise, into the Garo Hills.
“This invader species of ants may have been brought from outside of Garo Hills by someone and there have been many complaints of attacks on people who go into the fields. We have contacted the Wildlife Institute of India and also written to the Zonal Entomologist posted in the region to enquire into the case,” informed East Garo Hills Deputy Commissioner Swapnil Tembe while speaking to The Shillong Times on Saturday.
Farmers have complained that the ants, moving in large columns and setting up colonies in the fields, attack when anyone comes near. While it is said to eat any living thing that comes its way, its
 bite is said to leave a painful wound on humans.
In several places farmers have been reluctant to enter their fields for cultivation fearing attacks.
Most of the attacks are said to be taking place in the Dawa Chitik area of Nengkhra where a team led by an entomologist has been dispatched to study the species.
According to the deputy commissioner, this particular species of ants is believed to have entered Garo Hills sometime in the past five years and has since gradually spread to different corners. He does not rule out the possibility that it could have come undetected as a host in some particular sapling or tree brought from outside.
Rising climate change and the wanton destruction of forests may have also aided the ants to further colonise their region.
One of the prime reasons attributed to these attacking ants being able to survive and rise in their population has been the disappearance of their predators.
The indigenous pangolins or scaly anteaters known locally as “Kawate” once ruled the forests in Garo Hills slurping up entire colonies of ants and thereby putting a check on its population.
Sadly, widespread poaching of these pangolins for food as well as trade of their scales has pushed this mammal to the brink of extinction in the Garo Hills region.

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