Location: Biological Control of Pests Research
Project Number: 6066-22320-009-10-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement
Start Date: Jul 20, 2016
End Date: Jul 19, 2019
The goals of this project are: 1) to conduct studies on systematics, morphology and distribution of exotic and native species in Mississippi and neighboring states, 2) to obtain species of ants with dominant behavior, e.g., Dolochoderinae and Formicinae, for extraction of defensive/offensive chemicals, 3) to describe and compare fine structure of sensilla on antennae and mouthparts of species of dominant Dolochoderinae and Formicidae, 4) to identify microbial community composition and diversity in species of dominant Dolochoderinae, Ponerinae, and Formicinae selected for chemical extraction, 4) to manage roadside landscapes for increasing diversity of native species and reducing abundance of imported fire ants, and 5) to develop electronic resources on native and exotic species of ants for research, extension, industry, and the private sector.
Surveys of diversity of native and exotic ants will be conducted in National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, and State Parks and Preserves in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. Collections will be made visually and with baits and litter samples for Berlese funnel extraction. Lindgren funnel trap samples submitted by Cooperative Agricultural Pest Surveys in MS, AL, TN, KY, SC, and GA to the regional identification center in the museum will have all winged ants extracted for detection of new introductions. Collected specimens will be studied with both morphological and molecular methods, with COI barcodes used for associating reproductive castes with workers. Reproductive castes will be described for species in which association of reproductive and workers has not been previously made. New species will be described and new distribution records will be reported in publications. A manuscript will be prepared on ants of Mississippi to include photographs and drawings of all species in the state. Species of genera with dominant behavior, e.g., Dorymyrmex (Dolichoderinae), native species of Nylanderis (Formicinae), and Odontomachus (Ponerinae), will be collected in dichloromethane for extraction of chemicals in the ant. Collections will be made from both peripheral and central locations of known distribution within the Southeast. Two additional samples of dominant species will be collected at each location. One sample will be collected in Karnovsky fixative for subsequent examination of sensilla on the antennae and mouthparts with Scanning Electron Microscopy, Transmission Electron Microscopy, and Confocal Laser Microscopy. A second sample of live ants will be collected and held for gut evacuation prior to analysis of the composition and diversity of the endosymbiont community using 16S rRNA Illumina MiSeq®. Ants will be pulverized, and DNA will be extracted using Qiagen DNeasy Kit. Experiments aimed at examining the effects of grassland restoration on ant communities in Mississippi by manipulating plant diversity through one or more management strategies (e.g., mowing regime, burning, and addition of native plants) will be made on the Natchez Trace National Parkway. A roadside that is currently vegetated by exotic forage grasses will serve as the study site for this project. Site prep and application of various management treatments for the study plots will be applied by National Park Service personnel. Propagules of native grasses and forbs, indicative of local grasslands, will be reared in a greenhouse at Mississippi State for introduction to treatment plots at the study site. Response of both fire ants and native ants to the treatments will be monitored with the use of pitfall traps and bait stations. A web site on ants of the southeastern United States will be further developed to provide photographs and information on taxonomy, biology, distribution, and economic importance with links to other pages. Photographs and information will be shared with AntWeb.