By Walt Hickey Today is the last day of the anniversary subscription discount! The Thin Wormy Line For a cost of $15 million per year to the United States government, once a week several planes drop 14.7 million sterilized screwworms over the Panama-Colombia border, in what’s generally agreed to be one of the most successful parasitic containment and eradication programs in the world. In the late 1950s, the USDA began to eliminate screwworms — vicious flesh-eating larvae that devour cattle and other living things by entering their bodies through wounds — from the U.S. by introducing sterilized male screwworms en masse. Realizing the U.S.-Mexico border was an onerous 2,000 mile range to police, a deal was struck to carry the front lines of screwworm defense south through Mexico to a more feasibly treatable area. And since then, screwworms have been driven to the Isthmus of Panama, a continental line of defense held by weekly dumps of sterile bugs from planes. The bugs are grown and sterilized to the tune of 20 million a week in labs in Panama. For that $15 million federal investment, American farmers save an adjusted $1.3 billion in losses.
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