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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 » Publications at this Location » Publication #195877

Title: Public health significance of Urban Pests

item Oi, David

Submitted to: World Health Organization
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/3/2007
Publication Date: 6/25/2008
Citation: Oi, D.H. 2008. Public health significance of Urban Pests. World Health Organization Technical Report.Pharaoh ants and fire ants.p.175-208.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Pharaoh ants are cosmopolitan pests which inhabit residential and commercial buildings. While they do not sting, they have the potential to mechanically transmit diseases and thus are of special concern in healthcare facilities. Their propensity to breach sterile packaging, feed on wounds, and extensively infest large buildings makes them a public health risk. However, published economic impact data is minimal. Control measures for Pharaoh ants are effective when implemented properly. Baits containing insect growth regulators or metabolic inhibitors can eliminate infestations within a few weeks. Faster control with perimeter applications of non-repellent residual insecticides has been reported. Because Pharaoh ants can be easily transported monitoring and treatment will be an ongoing process to maintain acceptable control. Fire ants are stinging, invasive ants from South America that have infested the southern United States since the 1930’s. They now seem to be invading other parts of the world as evidenced by recent infestations in Australia and Southeast Asia. Most of Europe is too cold for the proliferation and spread of fire ants. However, countries along the Mediterranean and Black Seas have suitable climates for fire ant establishment. The economic cost of fire ants in U.S. is an estimated $6.5 billion USD annually with a majority of the losses in the urban sector. In infested areas of the U.S., 30-60% of the population was stung annually, of which anaphylactic shock was conservatively estimated to occur in 1% of the victims. Litigation settlements of over $1 million USD have been awarded for deaths related to fine ant stings. The significant impact of fire ants confirms the importance of preventing their establishment in new regions. Countries at risk for infestations should have a centralized coordinated response plan that includes regulatory clearance and manufacturing source(s) for treatments. There is a dire need for surveillance methods that can detect fire ants at low population levels. Baits can effectively control fire ants and non-repellent residual insecticides can provide extended control. Selection of treatment regimes should consider fire ant tolerance and liability for each land-use pattern.