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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Areawide suppression of fire ants

Authors
item Aubuchon, Matthew
item Vander Meer, Robert

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: February 7, 2008
Publication Date: March 6, 2009
Citation: 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.

Interpretive Summary: Fire ants were inadvertently introduced into the United States early in the 1900s. They currently inhabit over 350 million acres in Puerto Rico and twelve southern states and more recently they have become established in isolated sites in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Maryland. The fire ant’s large numbers and potent sting have resulted in medical, agricultural, and environmental economic impacts that cost the United States public billions of dollars each year. Only recently have self-sustaining fire ant biological control agents become available for release in the United States, thus making integrated management of fire ant populations feasible. Scientists at the Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology, USDA, ARS, Gainesville, Florida, and cooperators in several states successfully competed for an ARS Headquarters funded Areawide project. The areawide suppression of imported fire ants project was complex involving cooperators in five states and was successful as exemplified by (1) establishment and spread of self-sustaining biological control agents to help restore the ecological balance between the imported fire ant and native fauna, (2) sustained fire ant population reduction was achieved over large areas, (3) lower fire ant populations translate into a safer environment for farm workers, (4) the economic component led to a better understanding of fire ant economic impact, (5) the research component provided among other things, needed tools for monitoring pathogen prevalence, (6) web site and other educational media were developed and widely distributed, (7) parasites were established at areawide sites and spread on their own well beyond the confines of the Areawide Project, and (8) New demonstration sites and protocols were established on “high value” properties where fire ant control is highly desirable and represents a high economic, environmental, and/or aesthetic value. The high value sites serve as examples for neighboring businesses, creating nucleus locations for expansion of interest in fire ant IPM in different regions of the USA beyond the life of the project.

Technical Abstract: An areawide integrated management of fire ants project was funded by USDA/ARS. The project was possible after self-sustaining biological control agents became available and a combination of biological control and toxic bait methodologies could be applied to imported fire ant population reduction. The areawide Suppression of Imported Fire Ants Project was largely successful through (1) establishment and spread of self-sustaining biological control agents to help restore the ecological balance between the imported fire ant and native fauna, (2) sustained fire ant population reduction was achieved over large areas, (3) lower fire ant populations translate into a safer environment for farm workers, (4) the economic component led to a better understanding of fire ant economic impact, (5) the research component provided among other things, needed tools for monitoring pathogen prevalence, (6) web site and other educational media were developed and widely distributed, (7) parasites were established at areawide sites and spread on their own well beyond the confines of the Areawide Project. (8) New demonstration sites and protocols were established on “high value” properties where fire ant control is highly desirable and represents a high economic, environmental, and/or aesthetic value (e.g., parks, hunting clubs, natural areas, military facilities, urban horticulture, etc). The high value demonstration sites apply what has been learned from the large-scale areawide program on pastures to businesses that will likely continue fire ant treatment after the Areawide Project concludes. We will continue to follow the progress of these sites, as well as maintain the Areawide website after the project ends. The high value sites serve as examples for neighboring businesses, creating nucleus locations for expansion of interest in fire ant IPM in different regions of the USA.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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