Researchers Employ Remote Sensing to Track
Fire Ants By Jim
May 1, 2003
The latest fire ant suppression technologies are being combined
this spring by scientists of the Agricultural Research Service and
Tennessee State University to help plant
and tree nurseries in Warren County, Tenn., avoid quarantine status.
Counties south of Warren are under partial quarantine to help
slow the spread of imported fire ants (IFAs) to other areas of the state. This
means nurseries have to treat their soil and stock with the few, costly
insecticide treatments approved by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
ARS researchers in Stoneville, Miss., plan on using recently
developed remote sensing techniques to help the Tennessee Department of
Agriculture identify high-priority areas in those quarantined counties as part
of an areawide program to manage IFAs, according to ARS entomologist James
Researchers will assess new and emerging bait products, and
release parasites and pathogens to attack the ants. Remote sensing of IFA
mounds with high-resolution digital imagery will allow researchers to quickly
identify and target areas with high IFA population density.
In the United States, there are two types of IFAs--red and
black. Red IFAs now infest more than 320 million acres in 12 southeastern
states and Puerto Rico. Recently, populations have become established in
California and New Mexico. Each year, the ants sting about 40 percent of people
in infested areas. The black imported fire ant (BIFA) is currently found only
in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. A cross between the two species, the
hybrid fire ant, is also established.
The abundance of BIFAs in the Mid South provides scientists at
Stoneville's Biological Control of Pests Research Unit an opportunity to
evaluate control agents against both ants. The research unit began a five-year
project in 2001 to assess the impact of biological control agents used with
chemical bait toxicants in managing IFA levels.
Read more about this research in the
May issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the USDA's chief scientific research agency.