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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Gainesville, Florida » Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology » Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects Research » Research » Research Project #436291

Research Project: Management of Fire Ants and Other Invasive Ants

Location: Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects Research

Project Number: 6036-32000-051-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Sep 3, 2019
End Date: Sep 2, 2024

Objective:
1. Conduct studies on fire ant biology to develop new and improved surveillance and control strategies as part of an integrated pest management program. 1.1. Develop natural enemies of fire ants as classical biological control agents or biopesticides by characterizing their life cycle, evaluating their effectiveness, determining host specificity, developing methods for production and release, and formulating as biopesticides. 1.2. Determine how irrigation affects fire ant bait efficacy. 1.3. Develop novel biologically-based fire ant control by identifying the behavioral and semiochemical underpinnings of fire ant mating flights and colony establishment. 1.4. Identify key biological processes in fire ant life stages that may be susceptible to disruption. (vacant Molecular Biologist) 1.5. Determine and quantitate fire ant traits that contribute to their ability to survive the harsh conditions associated with accidental transport over long distances and/or establishing and expanding infestations at the invasion front. (vacant Entomologist) 2. Develop new surveillance and control strategies for crazy ants and other invasive pest ants. 2.1. Employ metagenomics techniques and next generation sequencing technologies to discover potential natural enemies of the little fire ant. 2.2. Develop an effective baiting strategy for the control of tawny crazy ants. 2.3. Investigate the homology of pheromone systems that are well understood for S. invicta, but relatively unknown in the little fire ant and the tawny crazy ant. 2.4. Identify key biological processes of little fire ants and/or tawny crazy ants that can be exploited and developed as novel control methods. (vacant Molecular Biologist) 2.5. Determine and quantitate little fire ant, tawny crazy ant, and other ant species traits that contribute to their invasive success, e.g., metabolic rates. (vacant Entomologist)

Approach:
1.1 Integration of any new natural agent into a fire ant control program will require the satisfactory completion of studies in host specificity, predicted-efficacy, virulence, mode of action/transmission, formulation/rearing and field release methodologies. 1.2 Water resistant and standard fire ant bait formulations exposed to irrigation will be evaluated for efficacy against fire ant colonies. The effect of bait application methods (piled vs broadcast) on improving bait tolerance to irrigation will also be assessed. 1.3 Behavioral and semiochemical underpinnings of fire ant mating flights and colony establishment will be examined by determining the behavior of alates to pyrazines with olfactometer bioassays and in-flight lek sampling. Male produced tyramides will be further evaluated for physiologicfal functions related to multiple mating and rapid wing loss. 1.4 The approach of this sub-objective will be defined by the scientist filling the vacant Molecular Biologist position. 1.5 The approach of this sub-objective will be defined by the scientist filling the vacant Entomologist position. 2.1 Little fire ants from across the native and introduced ranges will be collected and used as RNA source material to create cDNA expression libraries. Detailed bioinformatics analysis of resulting NGS data will allow us to identify potential microsporidia, fungi, viruses, protists, and non-hymenopteran eukaryotic parasites. Sequence leads will be verified by molecular analysis of little fire ant colonies sampled within and outside the native ranges. 2.2 Consumption and temporal feeding patterns by tawny crazy ants (TCA) on liquid sucrose bait containing a slow-acting toxicant will be compared to bait containing a fast-acting toxicant. Time lapse photography will be used to document temporal feeding patterns over 72 hours. TCA feeding patterns will be used to design liquid bait dispensers such as alginate hydrogel carrier and presented in a compostable dispenser. 2.3 Systematically evaluate exocrine glands in TCA and little fire ant (LFA) workers and queens for phenotypic effects, e.g. attraction, repellency, alarm, and recruitment using behavioral bioassays. Attraction will be investigated first, using a Y-tube olfactometer bioassay to guide the isolation of active compounds. Attractants can enhance baits and improve monitoring systems. 2.4 The approach of this sub-objective will be defined by the scientist filling the vacant Molecular Biologist position. 2.5 The approach of this sub-objective will be defined by the scientist filling the vacant Entomologist position.