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Research Project: Management of Fire Ants and Other Invasive Ants

Location: Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects Research

Title: Examining the prevalence of Solenopsis invicta virus 3 (Solinviviridae: Invictavirus) in Solenopsis invicta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) alates collected in North Florida

item ARNOLD, DONNA - Florida A & M University
item BALASUBRAMANI, SUBRAMANI - Florida A & M University
item Valles, Steven
item HOTTEL, BENJAMIN - Florida A & M University

Submitted to: Florida Entomologist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/2/2020
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: The red imported fire ant was introduced into the United States in the 1930s and currently infests about 300 million acres. It is estimated to cause $6 billion in annual economic losses to livestock and agricultural production and poses a serious threat to human health. Biological control is widely considered the most sustainable method of controlling the fire ant over its entire range. The virus, Solenopsis invicta virus 3, discovered by USDA-ARS scientists at the Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology (CMAVE, Gainesville, FL), has been shown to be a promising potential biocontrol agent for these ants. Vertical transmission of the virus has been reported to occur, but the prevalence of the virus in alate fire ants is not known. Scientists at CMAVE and Florida A&M University have examined alate fire ants in Florida for the presence of SINV-3 for the first time. The virus was found readily suggesting that the virus is well established and impacting the population.

Technical Abstract: The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), is originally from South America and currently infests over 128 million hectares of land in the United States. Its presence has caused significant social, environmental, and economic impacts. Over the decades, chemical insecticides have successfully controlled these pest ants. However, this method is costly and unsustainable because red imported fire ant re-establishes colonies quickly after chemical application. Thus, it is important to develop additional strategies for managing the red imported fire ant in the U.S. Solenopsis invicta virus 3 (SINV-3) is a positive-sense, single-stranded RNA virus specific for S. invicta that offers promise as a classical biological control agent or biopesticide against S. invicta. Surveys were conducted to determine the prevalence of SINV-3 in alates of S. invicta collected from five urban areas (Tallahassee, Pensacola, Jacksonville, Gainesville and Panama City) and five adjacent rural areas (Quincy, Jay, Macclenny, Lake City, and Blountstown) of north Florida using the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) technique. The prevalence of SINV-3 varied widely from city to city. No statistically significant differences in alate infection rate was found between urban and rural cities sampled. Areas in which no infections of SINV-3 were detected are good candidates for the introduction of this virus as a biological control agent to help manage this pest locally.