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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Washington, D.C. » National Arboretum » Floral and Nursery Plants Research » Research » Research Project #435017

Research Project: Methods for Quarantine Certification and Biological Control of Imported Fire Ant in Nursery Production Systems

Location: Floral and Nursery Plants Research

Project Number: 8020-21000-072-06-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 1, 2018
End Date: Jul 31, 2023

Objective:
1) To develop improved methods to eliminate imported fire ants (IFA) from pre- and post-harvest field-grown, pot-and-pot, and containerized nursery stock including application procedures, rates and active ingredients, and colony detection and identification (e.g., infrared camera and evaluation of ELISA testing kits to improve regulatory decision-making). 2) To develop and expand imported fire ant biological control pathogens (SINV viruses and Kneallhazia) to potentially reduce fire ant populations in production areas and enhance Federal plant certification.

Approach:
Objective 1: To develop improved methods to eliminate imported fire ants from pre- and post-harvest field-grown, pot-and-pot, and containerized nursery stock including application procedures, rates and active ingredients, and colony detection and identification (e.g., infrared camera and evaluation of ELISA testing kits to improve regulatory decision-making). Pre- and post-harvest treatments will be evaluated for elimination of IFA in field-grown or containerized nursery stock. Pre-harvest field treatments will focus on products that may enhance pyrethroid band test treatments like soil, surfactants and wetting agents, and deposition agents. Treatments will be band-applied to sections of nursery rows or individual IFA colonies and IFA colony elimination and reinfestation followed over time to determine treatment efficacy. Research will continue with post-harvest balled and burlapped root ball bifenthrin injections to optimize treatments. Other research to be performed under this objective will include colony detection in the field with a FLIR E75 24o (FLIR Systems OU, Estonia) system versus non-aided human detection ability. Research assistance also will continue in the development of USDA-ARS InvictaDetect ELISA test kits, which are currently designed for rapid field detection of RIFA or BIFA colonies. Objective 2: To develop and expand imported fire ant biological control pathogens (SINV viruses and Kneallhazia) to potentially reduce fire ant populations in production areas and enhance Federal plant certification. The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta Buren) (RIFA) and the black imported fire ant (Solenopsis richteri Forel) (BIFA) and their hybrid (HIFA) are all regulated by the Federal Imported Fire Ant Quarantine (FIFAQ). Research will be performed to evaluate the potential to inoculate Tennessee HIFA populations with SINV-3 isolate from Florida RIFA populations. Our program already has an USDA-APHIS permit to receive and release SINV-3 from Florida RIFA populations. Virus inoculations will be prepared by Dr. Steven Valles (USDA-ARS CMAVE) using virus particle dosages recommended by Dr. Valles. Colonies will be inoculated by drenching with 10% sugar water and macerated virus infected ants or sugar water bait tubes containing virus infected ant particles. Molecular assessments of ant samples from the Tennessee survey identified multi-queen (i.e., polygyne) HIFA colonies in several locations in the state.