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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: AREA-WIDE SUPPRESSION OF FIRE ANT POPULATIONS IN PASTURES
2009 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
Specific objectives are to develop and integrate sustainable fire ant management methods in areawide demonstration projects; to form long-term partnerships among Federal, State, and the private sector; and to transfer to customers economical and ecologically sound technologies to manage fire ants.


1b.Approach (from AD-416)
This project will reduce and keep fire ant populations below an (arbitrary) threshold in pastures over a period of 3 years. For each demo in 3 states (Oklahoma, northern exteme of fire ant range; Texas, western extreme; Florida, firmly entrenched subtropical infestations), one 300 acre pasture will be treated only with pesticide bait applications, a second 300 acres will receive bait application and surrounding areas will be infested with 2 self-sustaining biocontrol agents (the phorid fly Pseudaccteon tricuspis, and the microsporidian disease agent Thelohania solenopsae), and a final 300 acres will be untreated and monitored for seasonal population fluctations. Monitoring will include mound counts and foraging activity (food lures) in approx. 30 1/8 to 1/2 acre circular plots in each 300 acre parcel and surrounding areas. In addition, establish small demonstration sites in 'high value" properties within areas with fire ant biocontrol agents, monitor fire ant populations using a food lure methodology, and make pesticide bait applications, and supplemental biocontrol agent inoculations as necessary. GPS and GIS technologies will be used to map observations and to create a comprehensive spatial database; spatial and temporal analyses will assess efficacy, reinfestation rates, establishment and spread of biocontrol agents, ecological impacts, and economic assessments.


3.Progress Report
All Areawide Project large pasture demonstration sites have been completed. The high-value demonstration sites have been completed and offer the best opportunity to transfer the control technology to the end users and beyond. Final surveys of parasitic phorid flies were made in South Carolina where it was demonstrated to be established and spreading. In Texas, two species of phorid flies (Pseudacteon tricuspis and P. curvatus) released at a high-value site were detected over 20 miles from the release site – indicative of establishment and spread. Oklahoma cooperators documented the spread of two phorid fly parasites from their release sites, which provided the latest dispersal information, which helped update the potential impact of the biological control part of the Areawide demonstration project. Agricultural economists collected, entered, and analyzed primary data on the economic impact of fire ants across five states from high-valued areas. This information coupled with secondary data from other research efforts and publications allowed extrapolation of the findings to the entire fire ant belt in the United States. The education component of the project finished a 12 page booklet of info sheets that include: Economic Benefits, Restoring the Ecological Balance, Spreading the Natural Enemies, and Research at the High-Value Sites. A web site for information about the areawide management of fire ants was maintained at CMAVE and the University of Florida.


4.Accomplishments
1. Areawide Project Wrap-up: a) high-Value site data were put into a High-Value Final Report that highlights the contributions made by all Areawide Project cooperators; b) agricultural Economist Cooperators through a Texas A&M SCA collected and analyzed fire ant economic impact data across five states from high-valued areas to determine fire ants economic impact; and c) the Educational Component of the project, through an SCA with the University of Florida produced a 12-page booklet composed of 1- and 2-page info sheets that encompass: Economic Benefits, Restoring the Ecological Balance, Spreading the Natural Enemies, Research at the High-Value Sites, A Naturally Sustained Program for Cooperators, Main Project: Pasture Demonstrations, Blended baits/aerial application, and Monitoring-Detection info sheets.


6.Technology Transfer

Number of Web Sites Managed1

Review Publications
Aubuchon, M.D., Vander Meer, R.K. 2009. Areawide suppression of fire ants. In: Koul, O., Cuperus, G., Elliott, N. Areawide Pest Management: Theory and Implementation. Stillwater, OK: CAB International. p. 261-270.

Last Modified: 10/31/2014
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