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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Biological Control of Imported Fire Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

Authors
item Williams, David
item Oi, David
item Porter, Sanford
item Pereira, Roberto
item Briano, Juan - ARS BIO. CONTROL LAB

Submitted to: American Entomologist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 16, 2003
Publication Date: October 21, 2003
Citation: Williams, D.F., Oi, D.H., Porter, S.D., Pereira, R.M., Briano, J.A. 2003. Biological Control of Imported Fire Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). American Entomologist. 2003. v. 49(3). p. 150-163.

Interpretive Summary: The imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta and S. richteri, were introduced into the United States in the early 1900's and currently inhabit over 320 million acres (129.5 million hectares) in the southern U. S. and Puerto Rico. Fire ants have continued to spread rapidly and now have become established in California and New Mexico. They have become the dominant arthropod species causing a multitude of problems for both humans, domesti animals and agriculture. Scientists at the Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology indicate that some potential biological control agents have negative effects on fire ant colonies. The successful establishment of biological control agents of fire ants would be a major benefit to citizens throughout the southern U. S. Biological control agents could be especially useful in grazed lands and crops where baits are not registered for use. They also could be used in wildlife refuges and preserves where use of many of the current wide-spectrum baits are not environmentally acceptable, and are cost prohibitive. Biological control agents could also help slow the spread of these pests into other areas. Successful releases of biological control agents such as phorid flies, microsporidia, and other natural enemies could shift the dominance towards our native ants. If this happens, fire ant populations in the U. S. could be reduced and would possibly mirror densities of those in South America. The development of biologically-based strategies will be important for the future management of fire ants and has the potential to offer long-term suppression of fire ants over large areas in the U.S. If successful, these programs could save millions of dollars annually by reducing the use of pesticides, greatly benefitting human health and the environment.

Technical Abstract: The imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta and S. richteri, were introduced into the United States in the early 1900's and currently inhabit over 320 million acres (129.5 million hectares) in the southern United States and Puerto Rico. Fire ants have continued to spread rapidly and now have become established in California and New Mexico. They have become the dominant arthropod species causing a multitude of problems for both humans, domesti animals and agriculture. Several potential biological control agents have been reported to have negative effects on fire ant colonies. The successful establishment of biological control agents of fire ants would be a major benefit to citizens throughout the southern United States. Biological control agents could be especially useful in grazed lands and crops where most baits are not registered for use. They also could be used in wildlife refuges and preserves where use of many of the current wide-spectrum baits are not environmentally acceptable, as well as being cost prohibitive. Biological control agents could also help retard the spread of these pests into other susceptible areas. Successful releases of biological control agents such as phorid flies, microsporidia, and other natural enemies could possibly shift the dominance towards our native ants. If this happens, fire ant populations in the United States could be reduced and would possibly mirror densities of those in South America. The development of new technologies utilizing biologically-based strategies will be important for the future management of fire ants and has the potential to offer long- term suppression of fire ants over large areas in the U.S. If successful, these programs could save millions of dollars annually by reducing the use of pesticides, greatly benefitting human health and the environment.

Last Modified: 10/30/2014
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