Submitted to: Area-Wide Control of Insect Pests: From Research to Field Implementation
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: May 24, 2005
Publication Date: November 1, 2007
Citation: Vander Meer, R.K., Pereira, R.M., Porter, S.D., Valles, S.M., Oi, D.H. 2007. Area-wide suppression of Invasive Fire Ant Solenopsis spp. populations. Area-Wide Control of Insect Pests: From Research to Field Implementation. P:487-496. Technical Abstract: The fire ants, Solenopsis invicta and Solenopsis richteri, were inadvertently introduced into the United States early in the 1900s and currently inhabit over 150 million hectares in Puerto Rico and twelve southern states from Texas to Virginia. Imported fire ants have also become established in isolated sites in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Maryland. The fire ant’s large numbers and potent sting have resulted in significant medical, agricultural, and environmental impacts. The population densities in the U.S. are 5-10 times higher than in South America, most likely due to their escape from natural enemies. Recently, biological control agents have become available for introduction into the United States, e.g. phorid fly parasites and a microsporidian pathogen, setting the stage for integrated fire ant management. An areawide fire ant management project proposal was funded by USDA/ARS Headquarters to demonstrate control of fire ant populations over large areas using commercially available insecticide bait and self-sustaining biological control agents. Control and treatment demonstration sites (120Ha + periphery) were set up in each of five states (Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, South Carolina, and Mississippi). The control and treatment sites both had bait (hydramethylnon and methoprene) applications, but only the treatment site had biocontrol agents released around the periphery. After 3.5 years phorid fly parasites have been established at the demonstration sites. The microsporidian pathogen is established in all sites except Mississippi. Fire ant populations have been reduced by 85-99% in the treatment demonstration sites. Environmental assessment has demonstrated that bait toxicants do affect non-target ant species that would otherwise play a role in decreasing fire ant reinfestation rates. Educational outreach activities resulted in informative brochures, the establishment of a program website, videos, and general information on fire ants. The research component has responded with additional biocontrol organisms and better pathogen detection methods.