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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Preliminary Results
USDA Agricultural Research Services Web site on area wide suppression of fire ants.


Preliminary results

Plots of land were treated with insecticide only. These treatments reduced fire ant populations by about 90 percent. But within several months fire ants reinvaded from surrounding areas.

Other plots were treated with insecticide, and natural enemies were released. The insecticide again reduced populations by about 90 percent, but fire ants did not reinvade. Even after two years, fire ant populations were still suppressed 96 to 100 percent by integrating use of insecticide and natural enemies. As fire ant populations decreased, beneficial fauna returned.

Graph showing how treatments, over time affect ant populations. Untreated populations stay high, ants in insecticide plots recover over time, while ants in insecticide and natural enemy plots continue to decline.
Graph showing how beneficial fauna increases over time as imported fire ant populations decrease.

Map of southern US, North Carolina to Texas, showing sites where fire ant disease was inoculated and/or established.

Releasing natural enemies

Natural enemies are being established at widely separated locations throughout the South. These natural enemies will reproduce and spread on their own. Decapitating flies can spread at the rate of about 10 miles a year. Fire ant disease spreads much more slowly.
Map of southern US, North Carolina to Texas, showing sites where the decapitating fly was released and/or established.

Benefits

Integration of biological control with traditional insecticide should provide sustained reduction of fire ant populations without multiple insecticide applications. It can restore the natural ecological balance that was lost when fire ants invaded and killed native wildlife.
Pie chart representing total potential benefit of $4.6 billion using fire ant enemies to control fire ants.

The bottom line

Everyone will benefit: agricultural and lifestock producers, schools, businesses, military, and especially the natural environment.

Areawide suppression using baits and biological control of fire ants is expected to save more than $4.6 billion a year in fire ant damage.


Areawide Suppression of Fire Ants main menu

Last Modified: 4/18/2014
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