Thelohania solenopsae, a microorganism from South America that
infects fire ant colonies, was released in 1998. The workers probably
transfer the pathogen to the queen through food exchange. She slowly loses
weight and lays fewer and fewer eggs, all infected with the pathogen.
Colonies generally die within 9 to 18 months, according to entomologist
David F. Williams.
Two new biocontrol agents currently under study are a pathogen and phorid
fly. Vairimorpha is a pathogen similar to Thelohania, but it
kills colonies in two to six weeks. Pseudacteon curvatus
is a smaller phorid fly species that attacks smaller-sized fire ants.
An in-depth article on fire ant research appears in the September issue of
Agricultural Research magazine. The story is also on the World Wide Web:
Scientific contact: David Williams and
Sanford Porter, ARS Imported Fire Ants &
Household Insects Unit, Gainesville, Fla., phone (352) 374-5903, fax
(352) 374-5818, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Note to television news media: Video news releases are available from
Tara Weaver-Missick, ARS Information Staff, phone (301) 504-1619,