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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

2006 Annual Report

1.What major problem or issue is being resolved and how are you resolving it (summarize project aims and objectives)? How serious is the problem? Why does it matter?
This project is aligned with National Program 304 Crop Protection and Quarantine and National Program 104 Veterinary, Medical and Urban Entomology. Imported fire ants inhabit million acres of pasture in twelve southern states from Texas to Virginia. Fire ants have also become established in limited areas in California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Because of their tremendous populations and painful sting, fire ants are agricultural, rural and urban pests. Costs for damage, control measures, and medical treatments are estimated to approximately $6 billion dollars annually. Chemical treatments can provide fast control in limited areas, but are costly and provide only temporary fire ant suppression. Fire ant populations in the U.S. are 5-7 times higher than in their native range of Brazil and Argentina, and the large populations are likely the result of escaping from natural enemies that occur in South America. To resolve this issue, natural enemies of fire ants, such as parasitic decapitating flies and a microsporidian pathogen are being evaluated to develop self-sustaining, biologically-based integrated pest management strategies for permanent or long term suppression of fire ants in the U.S. The integration of chemical bait pesticides and biological control agents will be utilized in this program. The ant population will be reduced by the application of chemical bait applications and the biological control agents will serve to prevent reinfestation of the treated area. This project will assess the impact of self-sustaining biological control agents against red imported fire ant populations and demonstrate the use of specific insect parasites, predators, and other tactics used over a broad area (~300 acres). Integration of biological and chemical control agents over large areas can keep fire ant populations below the point where they impose a financial burden on farmers and ranchers or cause ecological damage to native wildlife. Kept at low levels, pests are more responsive to biological controls. Five sites have been chosen to represent the diversity of climate conditions where fire ants exist in the U.S. Florida represents a subtropical environment that allows the fire ant to have mating flights throughout the year. Oklahoma represents the northern extreme of fire ant invasions, where populations may be limited by cold winter temperatures and may be relatively unstable. Texas represents the western extreme of contiguous infestations in the southeast U.S. where a semi-arid climate may favour the impacts of the decapitating flies on fire ant populations. South Carolina represents the eastern extreme of the fire ant range in the U.S. Mississippi’s sites are established in areas infested with the black imported fire ant (Solenopsis richteri) and will allow comparison of the same IPM approach on a different species.

How serious is the problem? Why does it matter?

The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, is an invasive species inadvertently introduced into the USA and infests over 321 million acres in 12 southeastern states and Puerto Rico. Recently a sustaining population has been found in California, and it has also been reported sporadically in Arizona, New Mexico and Maryland. The fire ant thrives in disturbed habitats where people are likely to be present. The ant’s potent sting and large populations have created serious medical and agricultural problems. About 40 percent of the human population in infested areas are stung each year. Fire ants damage many crops and create problems for the cattle industry. Economic Analysis conducted under this project shows that the annual economic impact of fire ants in the US economy is approximately 6 billion dollars, including 1.3 billion dollars in FL, 1.2 billion dollars in TX, 210 million dollars in SC, 164 million dollars in MS, and 18 million dollars in OK. There are only two commercial toxic bait treatments available for fire ant control in pasture. These baits are non-specific, costly and require multiple treatments per year, year after year. The continual treatment / re-invasion process perpetuates the ecological balance originally upset by the invading imported fire ant. Fire ant densities in the United States are about five times those found in their indigenous South America, most likely because in the United States they have escaped from their native natural enemies.

2.List by year the currently approved milestones (indicators of research progress)

Annual Core Team Meeting in Association with the Fire Ant Conference Prepare Comprehensive Budget for Program with Site Budgets Assess & modify Support Research Plan Assess & modify Economic Assessment Plan Assess & modify Environmental Assessment Plan Assess & Modify Education Component Plan Prepare new Brochures Targeting Impact and Technology Transfer Conduct Last Large Area Population Assessments Apply Last Treatment of Chemical Baits if Needed to Large Area Sites Continue Developing High Value Demonstration Sites


Annual Core Team Meeting Annual Core Team + Stakeholder Meeting Prepare Minimal Maintenance Budget Comprehensive Data Analysis Assess & modify Support Research Plan Assess & modify Economic Assessment Plan Complete Environmental Assessment Assess & Modify Education Component Plan Video Document Project Progress Monitor and Evaluate High Value Demonstration Sites


Last Annual Core Team Meeting in Association with the Fire Ant Conference Complete Economic Assessment Complete Education Component Website Maintenance Prepare final Project Report(s) Evaluate Effectiveness of High Value Demonstration Sites

4a.List the single most significant research accomplishment during FY 2006.
This Project will have been in effect for 6 months at the end of FY06. For the first time the Project demonstrated large area fire ant control over a continuous 4 to 5 year period in several unique climatic locations in the infested area in the United States. This accomplishment is in alignment with National Program 104 - Veterinary, Medical and Urban Entomology and supports Action Plan Goals: 4.1 Chemical Pesticides and Repellents; 4.2 Biological Control; 4.3 Area-wide Control; and 2.2 Surveillance.

5.Describe the major accomplishments to date and their predicted or actual impact.
This is the first progress report for this CRIS and after less than six months of its commencement, the major accomplishments at this stage would be the same as the accomplishments found in section 4A.

6.What science and/or technologies have been transferred and to whom? When is the science and/or technology likely to become available to the end-user (industry, farmer, other scientists)? What are the constraints, if known, to the adoption and durability of the technology products?
This is the first progress report for this CRIS and after less than six months of its commencement; therefore, there is nothing to report here. However, see also terminated Project CRIS 0500-00044-009-00D, Areawide Suppression of Fire Ant Populations in Pastures for which the current CRIS is a continuation.

Last Modified: 7/31/2015
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