Research is focusing on the use of phorid decapitating flies in the genus Pseudacteon as biocontrol agents for imported fire ants. One species (Pseudacteon tricuspis) has been released in Florida and several other states. This fly is permanently established at more than a dozen sites and populations are beginning to expand rapidly out of several release sites. As of fall 2001, P. tricuspis was expanding out of the release sites around Gainesville, FL at the rate of 10-20 miles a year. By fall 2002 these flies should be coast to coast in Florida and moving into Georgia. During spring 2000, we released a second species of decapitating fly. This fly is much smaller than the first and may do better in cooler climates. It is now permanently established in hybrid populations in Alabama and perhaps Mississippi. Both species of flies were extensively tested for environmental safety prior to applying for release. To determine the impacts of these flies on fire ant populations, an extensive field monitoring program is being funded by a USDA-NRI research grant. Results from this research program are expected in the next 2-3 years.
Additional species and biotypes of decapitating flies will be evaluated and released.
Other projects include studies of polygyne fire ant populations and potential range limits of imported fire ant populations along the northern edges of their range.