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Sanford Porter is employed as a Research Entomologist for the USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Gainesville, FL. His specialty is the behavior and ecology of fire ants. He is currently evaluating and releasing phorid decapitating flies as fire ant biocontrol agents in the United States. He discovered that these parasites decapitate fire ant workers and then pupate in their heads. He also found that the impact of these flies on fire ant populations has been sufficient to cause the evolution of several phorid-specific defense behaviors. In 1996, he spent seven months on an ARS fellowship in Brazil studying these flies and developing ways to rear them in the laboratory.
As a result of these studies, he received approval for field release for the first species of decapitating fly Pseudacteon tricuspis in the summer of 1997. These flies have been released at more than 100 sites in 12 states with the help of USDA-APHIS and associates across the Southeast. By the fall of 2008, this fire ant biocontrol agent was estimated to occupy more than 270,000 square miles or about 50% of the fire ant range in the United States. A second species of decapitating fly, Pseudacteon curvatus, was released in the United States beginning in 2000. This species has been released at more than 60 sites in 11 states and estimated to occupy almost 320,000 square miles or about 60% of the fire ant range. The establishment of a third species, Pseudacteon litoralis, has recently been confirmed in Alabama. A fourth species, Pseudateon obtusus is well established around Gainesville, FL and several sites in Texas. A fifth species, Pseudacteon cultellatus, is being reared and evaluated in quarantine for possible release.
Another achievement is a model of future fire ant distribution in the United States and countries around the world based on colony growth and winter survival. This information is important in assessing risk associated with the dispersal of invasion fire ants. Another study suggests that fire ant population densities in the United States are unusually high because fire ants have escaped natural biocontrol agents that were left behind in South America. Dr. Porter has also studied the distribution, expansion, and impacts of multiple-queen fire ants in Florida and throughout the southeastern United States.
Dr. Porter began his professional career studying the behavior and population dynamics of harvester ants in Idaho under the direction of Clive Jorgensen (1977-1980). He then moved to Florida where he studied fire ant thermoregulation and social organization under Walter Tschinkel, first as a PhD student (1980-1984) and then as an NSF funded postdoc (1984-1986). More recently, Dr. Porter worked with Larry Gilbert in Austin, Texas (1986-1989) where he tested new fire ant control products, provided advise and training for the Texas Department of Agriculture, and studied the biology of polygyne fire ants.
Dr. Porter has also engaged in a number of professional service activities. In 2009 he worked with Dr. Walter Tschinkel in organizing a symposium at the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America to honor Edward O. Wilson and Bert Hölldobler, two giants in the field of social insect research. Dr. Porter served on the program committee and organized a symposium for the 2006 International Congress of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI). He served as Chair of Section C of the Entomological Society of America and on the Section C Executive Committee (2000-2004). He was an assistant editor for the Florida Entomologist (1993-1998). He served as President of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects - North American Section (1990-1991) and was a member of the executive committee for five years. He was chairman of a computer resources committee that put the Florida Entomologist online via the Internet. He was also the original compiler of FORMIS, a master bibliography of ant literature which currently contains more than 40,000 citations. This computer database is playing an important role in coordinating the research efforts of ant biologists throughout the world - more than 350 colleagues from 40 nations have copies of FORMIS and many others use it online via the Internet.
Grants and Honors
- Technology Transfer Award, Superior Effort, Agricultural Research Service, 2006.
- Entomologist of the Year, 2003, Florida Entomological Society
- Southeast Region Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) Excellence in Technology Transfer Award, 2003
- USDA-CSREES, National Research Initiative, 2002-2003, $109,000, Field Evaluation of Phorid Flies for Classical Biocontrol of Imported Fire Ants.
- World Wildlife Fund Grant, 1999-2000, $5,000, Evaluation of potential for Biological Control of the Little Fire Ant, Wasmannia auropunctata.
- USDA-CSREES, National Research Initiative, 1999-2001, $241,000, Field Release of Phorid Flies for Classical Biocontrol of Imported Fire Ants.
- USDA-APHIS, National Biological Control Institute, 1998-1999, $15,800, Field Release of Phorid Flies for Fire Ant Biocontrol
- ARS Fellowship, 1995-1996. Rearing parasitic phorid flies for fire ant biological control. Brazil. 6-Month Sabbatical
- President - International Union for the Study of Social Insects, North American Section, (NAS-IUSSI) 1990.
- National Science Foundation - Thermoregulation and the effects of temperature on fire ants (1984-1986, written by myself and submitted with Dr. Walter R. Tschinkel).
- Member of a four-person team invited to evaluate the progress of Australia's fire ant eradication program. (June 2006).
- Flew to Cairns, Australia (15 June 2006) to advise the Queensland government on the biology and control measures for the electric ant (little fire ant), Wasmannia auropunctata.
- Secretary, Section C of the Entomological Society of America, 2001. In 2002, Dr. Porter will serve as Vice-Chair and in 2003 as Chair. Duties of this position include managing Section C business, recruiting volunteers for various activities and organizing the scientific program for the Annual Meeting.
- Member of a select three-person team invited by the governments of New Zealand and Australia to evaluate the feasibility of plans to eradicate resent infestations of the red imported fire ant (11-22 June 2001).
- Assistant Editor, Florida Entomologist - Insect Ecology (1993-1998).
- Chairman, Florida Entomological Society's committee on Computer Resources for Entomological Information 1993-1994. This committee successfully put the Florida Entomologist online via the Internet. This was one of the first scientific journals to be distributed electronically complete with figures in a format identical to the printed version (http://www.flaentsoc.org/fe.html).
- FORMIS Bibliography - I have compiled FORMIS, a master bibliography of ant literature, with over 30,000 references. This computer database is playing an important role in coordinating the research efforts of myrmecologists throughout the world. More than 350 colleagues from 35 nations are registered users. Many others are accessing and searching FORMIS via the Internet.
- Texas Fire Ant Project - Peer Review Committee, 1998
Research Entomologist, Fire Ant and Household Insects Research Group, Insects Affecting Man & Animals Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS, Gainesville, Florida.
Responsibilities: Evaluate phorid fly parasites for use as fire ant biocontrol agents. Examine fire ant populations in North and South America for evidence of escape from natural enemies. Study aspects of fire ant ecology and behavior with special emphasis on the impact and origin of the multiple-queen form. Model growth and development of fire ant colonies and populations for use in control strategies.
Refereed Publications (with PDFs)
(sorted by year)
Porter, S. D., and L. A. Calcaterra. 2013. Dispersal and competitive impacts of a third fire ant decapitating fly (Pseudacteon obtusus) established in North Central Florida. Biological Control 64: 66-74.
Oi, D. H., S. M. Valles, and S. D. Porter. 2012. The fire ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) pathogen, Vairimorpha invictae (Microsporidia: Burenellidae), not detected in Florida. Florida Entomologist 95: 506-508.
Callcott, A. M. A., S. D. Porter, R. D. Weeks, Jr., L. C. Graham, S. J. Johnson, and L. E. Gilbert. 2011. Fire ant decapitating fly cooperative release programs (1994-2008): Two Pseudacteon species, P. tricuspis and P. curvatus, rapidly expand across imported fire ant populations in the southeastern United States. J. Insect Sci. 11:19 (available online: insectscience.org/11.19).
Porter, S. D., L. C. Graham, S. J. Johnson, L. G. Thead, and J. A. Briano. 2011. The large decapitating fly Pseudacteon litoralis (Diptera: Phoridae): Successfully established on fire ant populations in Alabama. Florida Entomol. 94: 208-213.
Porter, S. D. 2010. Distribution of the Formosa strain of the fire ant decapitating fly Pseudacteon curvatus (Diptera: Phoridae) three and a half years after releases in North Florida. Florida Entomol. 93: 107-112.
Valles, S. M., D. H. Oi, and S. D. Porter. 2010. Seasonal variation and the co-occurrence of four pathogens and a group of parasites among monogyne and polygyne fire ant colonies. Biol. Control 54: 342-348.
Oi, D. H., S. D. Porter, S. M. Valles, J. A. Briano, and L. A. Calcaterra. 2009. Pseudacteon decapitating flies (Diptera: Phoridae): Are they potential vectors of the fire ant pathogens Kneallhazia (=Thelohania) solenopsae (Microsporidia: Thelohaniidae) and Vairimorpha invictae (Microsporidia: Burenellidae)? Biol. Control 48: 310-315.
Patrock, R. J. W., S. D. Porter, L. E. Gilbert, and P. J. Folgarait. 2009. Distributional patterns of Pseudacteon associated with the Solenopsis saevissima complex in South America. J. Insect Sci. 9:60, 17 pp. (available online: insectscience.org/9.60)
Gilbert, L. E., C. L. Barr, A. A. Calixto, J. L. Cook, B. M. Drees, E. G. Lebrun, R. J. W. Patrock, R. M. Plowes, S. D. Porter, and R. T. Puckett. 2008. Introducing phorid fly parasitoids of red imported fire ant workers from South America to Texas: Outcomes vary by region and by Pseudacteon species released. SW Entomol. 33: 15-29.
Oi, D. H., D. F. Williams, R. M. Pereira, P. Horton, T. S. Davis, A. H. Hyder, H. T. Bolton, Z. B.C., S. D. Porter, A. L. Hoch, M. L. Boswell, and G. Williams. 2008. Combining biological and chemical controls for the management of red imported fire ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Amer. Entomol. 54(Spring): 46-55.
Porter, S. D., and S. Higashi. 2008. What should Japan be doing about S. invicta? [in Japanese], pp. 163-175. In S. Higashi, K. Ogata and S. D. Porter [eds.], Biology of Solenopsis invicta, especially behavioral ecology and molecular genetics [in Japanese]. Kaiyusha, Tokyo.
Poinar, G. O., Jr., S. D. Porter, S. Tang, and B. C. Hyman. 2007. Allomermis solenopsii n. sp. (Nematoda: Mermithidae) parasitizing the fire ant Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Argentina. Syst. Parasitol. 68: 115-128.
Porter, S. D., S. M. Valles, T. S. Davis, J. A. Briano, L. A. Calcaterra, D. H. Oi, and A. Jenkins. 2007. Host specificity of the microsporidian pathogen Vairimorpha invictae at five field sites with infected Solenopsis invicta fire ant colonies in northern Argentina. Florida Entomol. 90: 447-452.
Valles, S. M., C. A. Strong, D. H. Oi, S. D. Porter, R. M. Pereira, R. Vander Meer, Y. Hashimoto, L. M. Hooper-Bui, H. Sanchez-Arroyo, T. Davis, V. Karpakakunjaram, K. M. Vail, L. C. Graham, J. A. Briano, L. A. Calcaterra, L. E. Gilbert, R. Ward, K. Ward, J. B. Oliver, G. Taniguchi, and D. C. Thompson. 2007. Phenology, distribution, and host specificity of Solenopsis invicta virus-1. J. of Invert. Pathol. 96: 18-27.
Vander Meer, R. K., R. M. Pereira, S. D. Porter, S. M. Valles, and D. H. Oi. 2007. Area-wide supression of invasive fire ant Solenopsis spp. populations, pp. 487-496. In M. J. B. Vreysen, A. S. Robinson and J. Hendrichs [eds.], Area-wide control of insect pests.
Calcaterra, L. A., S. D. Porter, and J. A. Briano. 2005. Distribution and abundance of fire ant decapitating flies (Diptera: Phoridae: Pseudacteon), in three regions of southern South America. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 98: 85-95.
Causton, C. E., C. R. Sevilla, and S. D. Porter. 2005. Eradication of the little fire ant, Wasmannia auropunctata (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), from Marchena Island, Galàpagos: On the edge of success? Florida Entomol. 88: 159-168.
Folgarait, P. J., O. Bruzzone, S. D. Porter, M. A. Pesquero, and L. E. Gilbert. 2005. Biogeography and macroecology of phorid flies that attack fire ants in south-eastern Brazil and Argentina. J. Biogeography 32: 353-367.
Morrison, L. W., M. D. Korzukhin, and S. D. Porter. 2005. Predicted range expansion of the invasive fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, in the Eastern United States based on the VEMAP global warming scenario. Diversity & Distributions 11: 199-204.
Morrison, L. W., and S. D. Porter. 2005. Testing for population-level impacts of introduced Pseudacteon tricuspis flies, phorid parasitoids of Solenopsis invicta fire ants. Biological Control 33: 9-19.
Porter, S. D., and L. E. Gilbert. 2005. Parasitoid case history: an evaluation of methods used to assess host ranges of fire ant decapitating flies, pp. 634-650. In M. S. Hoddle [ed.], Second international symposium on biological control of arthropods, Davos, Switzerland, September 12-16, 2005. Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team, USDA Forest Service, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; FHTET-2005-08.
Vazquez, R. J., and S. D. Porter. 2005. Re-confirming host specificity of the fire ant decapitating fly Pseudacteon curvatus (Diptera: Phoridae) after field release in Florida. Florida Entomol. 88: 107-110.
Porter, S. D., and L. E. Gilbert. 2004. Assessing host specificity and field release potential of fire ant decapitating flies (Phoridae: Pseudacteon), pp. 152-176. In R. G. Van Driesche, T. Murray and R. Reardon [eds.], Assessing host ranges for parasitoids and predators used for classical biological control: a guide to best practice. FHTET-2004-03, USDA Forest Service, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Vazquez, R. J., S. D. Porter, and J. A. Briano. 2004. Host specificity of a new biotype of the fire ant decapitating fly Pseudacteon curvatus (Diptera: Phoridae) from Northern Argentina. Environ. Entomol. 33: 1436-1441.
Graham, L. C., S. D. Porter, and V. E. Bertagnolli. 2003. Phorid flies in Alabama: a tale of two species. J. Agric. Urban Entomol. 20: 165-171.
Graham, L. C., S. D. Porter, R. M. Pereira, H. D. Dorough, and A. T. Kelley. 2003. Field releases of the decapitating fly Pseudacteon curvatus (Diptera: Phoridae) for control of imported fire ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee. Florida Entomol. 86: 334-339.
Morrison, L. W., and S. D. Porter. 2003. Positive association between densities of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, and generalized ant and arthropod diversity. Environ. Entomol. 32: 548-554.
Vogt, J. T., S. D. Porter, D. A. Nordlund, and R. Smith. 2003. A modified rearing system for production of Pseudacteon curvatus (Diptera: Phoridae), a parasitoid of imported fire ants. Biol. Control 28: 346-353.
Korzukhin, M. D., S. D. Porter, L. C. Thompson, and S. Wiley. 2001. Modeling temperature-dependent range limits for the fire ant Solenopsis invicta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the United States. Environ. Entomol. 30: 645-655.
Porter, S. D., and M. A. Pesquero. 2001. Illustrated key to Pseudacteon decapitating flies (Diptera: Phoridae) that attack Solenopsis saevissima complex fire ants in South America. Florida Entomol. 84: 691-699.
Porter, S. D., and J. Briano. 2000. Parasitoid-host matching between the little decapitating fly Pseudacteon curvatus from Las Flores, Argentina and the black fire ant Solenopsis richteri. Florida Entomol. 83: 422-427.
Thompson, L. C., S. D. Porter, and M. D. Korzukhin. 2000. The model analysis of the potential temperature-dependent range for the red imported fire ant Solenopsis invicta in the United States [in Russian]. Problems of Ecological Monitoring and Ecosystem Modelling 27: 275-286.
Morrison, L. W., S. D. Porter, and L. E. Gilbert. 1999. Sex ratio variation as as function of host size in Pseudacteon flies (Diptera: Phoridae), parasitoids of Solenopsis fire ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 66: 257-267.
Porter, S. D. 1999. FORMIS : a master bibliography of ant literature. USDA-ARS, CMAVE, Gainesville, FL.
Zakharov, A. A., and S. D. Porter. 1998. Spatial structure and patterns of foraging trails in polygyne fire ants (Formicidae: Solenopsis). Rus. Entomol. J. 4: 3-8.
Porter, S. D., D. F. Williams, and R. S. Patterson. 1997. Rearing the decapitating fly Pseudacteon tricuspis (Diptera: Phoridae) in imported fire ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Solenopsis) from the United States. J. Econ. Entomol. 90: 135-138.
Porter, S. D., D. F. Williams, R. S. Patterson, and H. G. Fowler. 1997. Intercontinental differences in the abundance of Solenopsis fire ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): an escape from natural enemies? Environ. Entomol. 26: 373-384.
Wojcik, D. P., and S. D. Porter. 1997. Comprehensive literature database for the imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta and Solenopsis richteri. USDA-ARS, CMAVE, Gainesville, Florida.
Zacaro, A. A., and S. D. Porter. 1997. First report on the ultrastructure (TEM) of a truly parasitic phorid: the ovary of the scuttle fly Pseudacteon solenopsidis Schmitz (Diptera: Phoridae). Acta Microscopica 6B: 622-623.
Pesquero, M. A., S. Campiolo, H. G. Fowler, and S. D. Porter. 1996. Diurnal patterns of ovipositional activity in two Pseudacteon fly parasitoids (Diptera: Phoridae) of Solenopsis fire ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Florida Entomol. 79: 455-457.
Fowler, H. G., M. A. Pesquero, S. Campiolo, and S. D. Porter. 1995. Seasonal activity of species of Pseudacteon (Diptera: Phoridae) parasitoids of fire ants (Solenopsis saevissima) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Brazil. Cientifica 23: 367-371.
Pesquero, M. A., S. D. Porter, H. G. Fowler, and S. Campiolo. 1995. Rearing of Pseudacteon spp. (Dipt. Phoridae), parasitoids of fire ants (Solenopsis spp.) (Hym., Formicidae). J. Appl. Entomol. 119: 677-678.
Porter, S. D., H. G. Fowler, S. Campiolo, and M. A. Pesquero. 1995. Host specificity of several Pseudacteon (Diptera: Phoridae) parasites of fire ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in South America. Florida Entomol. 78: 70-75.
Porter, S. D., M. A. Pesquero, S. Campiolo, and H. G. Fowler. 1995. Growth and development of Pseudacteon phorid fly maggots (Diptera: Phoridae) in the heads of Solenopsis fire ant workers (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Environ. Entomol. 24: 475-479.
Porter, S. D., R. K. Vander Meer, M. A. Pesquero, S. Campiolo, and H. G. Fowler. 1995. Solenopsis (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) fire ant reactions to attacks of Pseudacteon flies (Diptera: Phoridae) in Southeastern Brazil. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 88: 570-575.
MacKay, W. P., S. Porter, H. G. Fowler, and B. Vinson. 1994. A distribução das formigas lava-pés (Solenopsis spp.) no Estado de Mato Grosso do Sul, Brasil (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology 24: 307-317.
Vargo, E. L., and S. D. Porter. 1993. Reproduction by virgin queen fire ants in queenless colonies: comparative study of three taxa (Solenopsis richteri, hybrid S. invicta/richteri, S. geminata) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Insectes Sociaux 40: 283-293.