Submitted to: Florida Entomologist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 26, 2004
Publication Date: December 15, 2005
Citation: Burns, S., Vander Meer, R.K., Teal, P.E. 2005. The Effect of Age and Social Environment on Dealation in Solenopsis invicta (Hymenoptera: formicidae) Female Alates. Florida Entomologist. 88(4): 452-457. Interpretive Summary: Fire ant colonies each produce thousands of winged females every year and each of these has the potential to become a new fire ant colony. After mating 400 ft in the air these new queens drop to the ground and break off their wings. This starts many internal changes in the new queens, such as egg production. The colony queen releases a compound that prevents the winged females in the colony from breaking their wings off. But if the queen dies the winged females will break off their wings, which also starts the same internal changes as in the mated queens. USDA scientists at the Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology, Gainesville, FL and a scientist from Alabama State University, Montgomery, AL have investigated various factors that influence wing shedding, such as age of the winged female and the presence or absence of worker ants. Understanding this critical event in the fire ant life cycle could provide insight into novel ways to control fire ant reproduction.
Technical Abstract: The fire ant (Solenopsis invicta Buren) queen produces a primer pheromone that prevents dealation (wing removal) of cohabiting female alates by presumably suppressing endogenous titers of juvenile hormone (JH). Alates are released from the effects of this primer pheromone when they are separated from the queen by physical disturbance, queen death, or mating flights. We investigated if time to dealation was linked to the maturity of the female alates. We showed that dealation rates were not different for newly-eclosed (sexually immature) or sexually mature alates. Size measurements of the corpora allata (CA, the source of JH) were not significantly different for newly-eclosed, mature alates, or uninseminated dealates, suggesting either that size of CA do not correlate with JH production, or the JH level is not a factor in dealation. Dealation in the context of the colony and after mating flights appears to occur via separate mechanisms.