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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: INTEGRATED MANAGEMENT OF IMPORTED FIRE ANTS AND EMERGING URBAN PEST PROBLEMS

Location: Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects

Project Number: 6615-32000-041-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Jan 11, 2005
End Date: Sep 07, 2009

Objective:
(1) Develop and evaluate integrated management programs involving biologically-based control strategies; (2) Collect, rear, and release additional species of fire ant decapitating flies and evaluate their impacts on fire ant populations; (3) Identify and develop communicable pathogens for fire ant control; (4) Isolate, characterize, and evaluate fire ant semiochemicals and repellents for use in species-specific baits; (5) Determine molecular basis for fire ant susceptibility to pathogens and parasites; (6) Adapt, as warranted, methods for control of other invasive ant species; (7)Identify vulnerable genes involved in critical biological functions (e.g., apoptotic, metabolic, regulation, immunity), with the ultimate goal of developing gene-targeting methodologies using RNA interference for species-specific, biologically-based control of Imported Fire Ants; and (8) Develop an easy to use, rapid, sensitive, and inexpensive fire ant species-specific attract-and-kill surveillance trap incorporating a pheromone attractant or other attractant and a non-repellent quick acting insecticide; (9) Termites: Work with the public, pest control operators, and local government in Hawaii to apply and develop soil insecticides, wood perservatives, and baiting systems in the most targeted and efficacious manner.

Approach:
(1) Improve IPM management of fire ants through establishment of action thresholds, recommendations for treatment frequency, release self-sustaining biocontrol agents, and enhance bait technology using fire ant pheromones to improve specificity and attractiveness. (2) Collect and rear new species and biotypes of decapitating flies, determine host-specificity, as appropriate release in the field and monitor rates of expansion, impacts on fire ant populations, and post-release host specificity; (3) Use microscopic and molecular methods to maximize the probability of discovering new pathogens of fire ants, including viruses from their native and introduced ranges; (4) Isolate releaser and primer pheromones using bioassay driven procedures, use standard micro hyphenated techniques, such as Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry, to identify the isolated compound(s), synthesize or buy pheromones and bioassay for use in making fire ant baits more species-specific, evaluate through bioassays commercial repellent formulations for efficacy and longevity; (5) Analyze and describe the fire ant EST library and develop protocols for macro-gene arrays, examine the expression of a specific gene in response to artificial infection with bacteria, fungi, and/or microsporidia, verify and quantify gene array differences, develop diagnostic method to detect pathogen challenged fire ants; and (6) Colonies of selected invasive ant species of concern to customers and stakeholders will be reared in the laboratory where efficacy studies with commercial fire ant baits and baits specifically developed for other species of ants will be conducted. Distribution data from museum collections and climatic weather data will be used to determine potential geographic range expansion for the tramp ant species mentioned above; (7) Methods for gene knockdown using RNAi already developed and successfully applied in other arthropods will be evaluated for disruption of gene expression in fire ants. The approach will be modified as needed. Genes initially targeted will be those where knockdown leads to observable phenotype, followed by application of this novel technology to genes involved in important and critical fire ant functions; (8) Modify formulations of existing attractants and formicides in accordance with laboratory and field bioassays selecting for ease of use, speed of detection, sensitivity, and low cost; (9) Conduct field studies of efficacy and longevity of soil termticides; evaulate the efficacy of novel termite resistant materials by standard methods; and determine acceptability and efficacy of novel termite bait toxicants under laboratory and field conditions using established marking techniques.

Last Modified: 4/25/2014
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