New Hope for Combating Red Imported Fire Ants?

The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service fire ant research team in Florida may have discovered a new, environmentally friendly method for controlling fire ants in the southern United States, according to the February issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

In the article, “Update: Hot on the Trail of Fire Ants,” researchers report the potential success of viruses and other biological controls against the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta). These include a parasitic ant from Argentina and Brazil, Solenopsis daguerrei, and a pathogen, Thelohania solenopsae.

According to the ARS, the parasitic ant, which is being studied under quarantine in Florida, works to decrease fire-ant colony size. “Studies found that mound densities were reduced by 33 percent in fire-ant colonies with the parasitic ant, and the number of fire-ant queens was reduced by 47 percent in parasitized colonies,” according to the article.

The pathogen (Thelohania solenopsae) is a single-cell protozoan discovered by U.S. scientists in 1996 that works to reduce the fire-ant queen’s weight, causing her to lay fewer eggs.

For more information, visit http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2003/030210.htm.

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