Location: Biological Control of Pests Research
Project Number: 6066-22320-010-007-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement
Start Date: Jul 1, 2021
End Date: Jun 30, 2026
1. To conduct studies on systematics, morphology, ecology, and distribution of exotic and native species in Mississippi and the southern United States. 2. Continue studies of the feeding and overwintering site preference of tawny crazy ants and develop method for detecting tawny crazy ant colonies in the winter. 3. Search for ant-derived bioactive compounds. 4. To identify microbial community composition and diversity in tawny crazy ants. 5. To develop print and electronic resources on native and exotic species of ants for research, extension, industry, and the private sector.
Objective 1: Studies of the ecology, distribution, and diversity of native and exotic ants will be conducted across the southern United States where fire ants and tawny crazy ants are or could become established. Collections will be made by hand, 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 ants extracted for detection of new introductions. Collected specimens may be studied with both morphological and molecular methods, which will facilitate the association of reproductive castes with workers and determining the phylogenetic relationships for species of interest. 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. Manuscripts on the distribution, ecology, and diversity of the ant fauna of various states in the region will be published. Objective 2: Make concurrent collections of temperature data and TCA along a gradient of depth within insect’s natural habitats (soil and dead trees) through use of traps and dataloggers. Continue quantification of behavioral selection of microhabitat temperature via choice tests within an experimental arena. Quantify the use of TCA’s use of flowering plants, extrafloral nectaries, and honeydew producing insects and explore the exclusion of other local Formicidae. Measure ant visitation to these food sources either through trapping or observation periods, both in TCA occupied locations and similar habitats without them. TCA colony numbers may balloon to the vast numbers they have seasonally attain by making non-specialized associations with such food sources. Their shift to a lower trophic level could allow access to a larger pool of resources. Objective 3: Species of genera with dominant behavior, e.g., Doryrnyrmex and Dolichoderus (Dolichoderinae), Pheidole (Myrmicinae), and Nylanderia (Forrnicinae) will be collected in and sent to our cooperators at the USDA-ARS for extraction of chemicals in the ants. Objective 4: Microbial community composition and diversity in tawny crazy ants using 16S rRNA lllumina MiSeq®. Ants will be pulverized, and DNA will be extracted using Qiagen DNeasy Kit. Objective 5: A web site on ants of the southeastern United States will be further improved 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.