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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Potential Global Range Expansion of the Invasive Fire Ant, Solenopsis Invicta

Authors
item Morrison, Lloyd
item Porter, Sanford
item Daniels, Eric
item Korzukhin, Michael - INST GLOB CLIMATE & ECOL

Submitted to: Biological Invasions
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 10, 2003
Publication Date: May 7, 2004
Citation: Morrison, L.W., Porter, S.D., Daniels, E., Korzukhin, M.D. 2004. Potential global range expansion of the invasive fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Biological Invasions. 6:183-191.

Interpretive Summary: The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, is an invasive species that has become widespread in the southern United States and Caribbean after introduction from South America in the 1930's. This pest ant has many negative impacts on agriculture, biodiversity, and human health in invaded regions. Solenopsis invicta was recently discovered in Australia and New Zealand and has the potential to colonize numerous other regions around the globe. Scientists working at the USDA-ARS, Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, FL, used a mathematical model of colony growth to predict the potential global range limits of this species. Based on minimum and maximum daily temperatures, the model estimates colony growth and predicts future geographic range limits. Because S. invicta populations are limited by dry conditions as well as cold temperatures, precipitation data were superimposed upon temperature-based predictions, to identify regions that do not receive enough rainfall to support this species across the landscape. Many areas around the globe, including large regions of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and numerous island nations, are at risk for S. invicta infestation. Early detection of S. invicta infestation is critical, as costs of eradication increase dramatically as the area of infestation grows, and large infestations may be impossible to eradicate. Our results indicate regions that are climatically susceptible for future invasion by S. invicta, and should facilitate efforts by quarantine officials to decrease the worldwide expansion of this ant pest.

Technical Abstract: The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, is an invasive pest that has become widespread in the southern United States and Caribbean after introduction from South America in the 1930's. This species, which has diverse detrimental impacts on recipient communities, was recently discovered in Australia and New Zealand and has the potential to colonize numerous other regions. We used a dynamic, ecophysiological model of colony growth to predict the potential global range expansion of this invasive species. Based on minimum and maximum daily temperatures, the model estimates colony alate production and predicts future geographic range limits. Because S. invicta populations are limited by arid conditions as well as cold temperatures, we superimposed precipitation data upon temperature-based predictions, to identify regions that do not receive enough rainfall to support this species across the landscape. Many areas around the globe, including large portions of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and numerous island nations, are at risk for S. invicta infestation. Quarantine officials should be vigilant for any accidental introductions of this pest in susceptible regions. Costs of eradication increase dramatically as the area of infestation grows, and large infestations may be impossible to eradicate. Other South American Solenopsis fire ants (e.g., S. richteri Forel) may become invasive if the opportunity arises, and our predictions for S. invicta may approximate the potential range limits for these species as well.

Last Modified: 4/16/2014
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