BIOLOGY, GENOMICS, AND INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT OF INVASIVE ANTS
Location: Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects
Title: Sampling High-Altitude and Stratified Mating Flights of Red Imported Fire Ant
Submitted to: Journal of Medical Entomology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 8, 2011
Publication Date: May 1, 2011
Citation: Fritz, G.N., Fritz, A.H., Vander Meer, R.K. 2011. Sampling High-Altitude and Stratified Mating Flights of Red Imported Fire Ant. Journal of Medical Entomology. 48(3):508-512.
Interpretive Summary: The red imported fire ant, S. invicta, is among the world’s 100 worst invasive alien species. In the United States this ant species infests more than 320 million acres in 13 southern tier states and Puerto Rico and are spreading northward. It is estimated to be responsible for almost $7 billion annually in damage repair, medical care, and control costs. In the last decade S. invicta has changed from an invasive pest ant in the United States to a global problem, with infestations occurring in Australia, Taiwan, Mainland China, Mexico and many Caribbean Island countries. The extraordinary high reproductive capacity of this ant species is a large contributor to its invasive success. Mating flights are largely not understood because they take place over 300 feet in the air and cannot be simulated in the laboratory. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms and chemistry involved in mating flights could lead to development of novel control methods. Scientists from the Imported Fire Ant and Household Insect Unit at the Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, USDA, ARS, Gainesville, FL and from the Department of Biological Sciences, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL, have developed and evaluated a method for sampling queens and males during mating sights at altitudinal intervals reaching as high as 140 m. The prototype system successfully trapped over 1,700 male and female fire ant sexuals during three mating flights. The system will be useful in identifying fire ant sex pheromones utilized during mating flights. This trapping method also should be useful for altitudinal sampling of other insects of medical importance.
With the exception of an airplane equipped with nets, no method has been developed that successfully samples red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, sexuals in mating/dispersal flights throughout their potential altitudinal trajectories. We developed and tested a method for sampling queens and males during mating flights at altitudinal intervals reaching as high as ~140 m. Our trapping system uses an electric winch and a 1.2-m spindle bolted to a swiveling platform. The winch dispenses up to 183 m of Kevlar-core, nylon rope and the spindle stores 10 panels (0.9 by 4.6 m each) of nylon tulle impregnated with Tangle-Trap. The panels can be attached to the rope at various intervals and hoisted into the air by using a 3-m-diameter, helium-filled balloon. Raising or lowering all 10 panels takes~15-20 min. This trap also should be useful for altitudinal sampling of other insects of medical importance.