Red Imported Fire Ant

January 29, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Science, Biology, Zoology, Entomology
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II. a. Imported Fire Ant Introduction and Biology Teaching Module for Advanced Master Gardener Training

Where are imported fire ants from? Where are they found in the US?

Need new map

History of Imported Fire Ants 

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1918: estimated introductions occurred of black imported fire ant (Solenopsis richteri) First introduced in Mobile, Alabama Red imported fire ant (S. invicta) followed in the early 1930’s The two species have hybridized Imported fire ants currently infest 330 million acres in the U.S. No natural enemies native to U.S.

History 

IFA are the most destructive and costly ants in the U.S. IFA thrive in disturbed habitats, natural or man-made disturbances IFA continue to expand in the U.S. and their final range has yet to be reached

Identification 

Habitat – found in open, sunny areas Mounds – large, no activity on surface Ants – very aggressive when disturbed Stings – painful, leave white pustule, sting more than once


Bite and Sting

Sting and Poison Gland

Types of Adult Fire Ants Winged female

Winged male Workers

UC Statewide IPM Program

Polymorphism in Worker Ants major




Adult fire ant workers have different morphs (polymorphic), i.e. major, media and minor, which greatly vary in body size. Majors are often used in identification because of their large size. Not all ant species exhibit polymorphism.

Fire Ant Anatomy – Major Body Parts AL= AN= CE= G= H= M= MT= P= PP= PR= PT= S= T=

alitrunk antenna H compound eye gaster head mandible AN mesothorax petiole post-petiole propodeum prothorax sting teeth (mandibular)








Solenopsis invicta Buren

Imported Fire Ant Anatomy USDA

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Reddish to brown in color Large eyes Workers are polymorphic (1/6 – 1/5 in. long) Waist with 2 nodes No spine on propodeum 10 antennal segments 2-segmented antennal club Brown gaster with stinger Extremely aggressive

Photos by AntWeb

Comparing RIFA to a Carpenter Ant Red Imported Fire Ant

April Noble,

Common Black Carpenter Ant

Alex Wild 2003

Relative Size of Ant Workers of Various Species

Texas Imported Fire Ant Research & Management Plan

Mating and Dispersal 

Mating flights occur on sunny days within 24 hours of rain, when temperatures are above 75ºF. Flights usually occur in spring and fall, but may occur after any rainfall.

Mating and Dispersal 

Mating takes place 300 to 800 feet above the ground. After mating, females seek moist or reflective surfaces on which to land; male dies. Female is vulnerable to predators during and just after mating flight, especially to other fire ants.

Colony Development

New colonies are founded by newly mated females (queens) Once a queen lands, she removes her wings, burrows into the soil, and begins to lay eggs.

Colony Development

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The first batch of eggs grow up to be worker ants Takes 20 – 45 days for adult maturity Worker ants are all sterile females capable of stinging Workers begin foraging and constructing the mound

A Queen’s Life EGG

After the first batch of workers is grown, the queen will always be tended by her workers. The queen can live 5-7 years and can lay eggs equal to her own body weight each day.

Mound Development 

Mounds often not visible the first few months

Within six months a small mound becomes visible May have 100,000 ants present

Mound Development 

Mature mounds may be quite large - Distinctive trait Mature colonies may contain 200,000 to 400,000 worker ants - Polymorphic colony population

Mound Structure Lateral foraging tunnel Exit / Entrance

Lateral foraging tunnel

Deep tunnels to water source

Interconnected Chambers

If the mound is disturbed…

Workers rush to save the queen and the immature ants

Colony Life 

Workers move the young fire ants and the queen around the nest

Often move more than once per day Maintains near constant temperature and humidity

Fire Ant Life Stages




Complete metamorphosis 4 life stages Adult

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Eggs found in brood chamber of a mound Eggs usually take 7-10 days to hatch

Larval Instars 

Larvae molt four times over 12-15 day period First three instars fed regurgitated liquid food

Black arrows point to a piece of solid food in the food basket below the mouth

Fourth instars are the only stage that can feed on solid food

Fire Ant Diet Fire ants eat a variety of foods

Pollet, LSU AgCenter

and are excellent foragers

What do fire ants eat? 

Mostly other insects (predators) Tend aphids and scale insects for honeydew Plants and seeds that produce oils Fire ant workers DO NOT eat solid food Feed by trophallaxis

Trophallaxis 

Foraging ants bring food back to the nest. Ants pass the food one to the other by regurgitating it from their crops. Adults pass liquid food around. Adults cannot digest solid food. Food is distributed to all members of the colony, including the queen.

Fire Ant Development

Worker immature and mature stages

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Large workers live about 90-180+ days as adults Medium workers live about 60-90 days as adults Small workers live about 30-60 days as adults Regardless of size, they change jobs as they age - nurse - guard/excavator - forager

Development of Castes Worker immature and mature stages



Reproductive immature and mature stages

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Pattern of development similar for worker and reproductive stages Males develop from unfertilized eggs Female reproductives get special food and hormones

Two Types of Colonies 

Single queen (monogyne) - territorial and aggressive - limited life span of the colony Multiple queens (polygyne) - not territorial or aggressive toward each other - will adopt new queens - long-lived colonies

Monogyne Queen Colony 

15-80 mounds per acre

Up to 7 million ants/acre

One queen per colony

Worker ants are territorial

Found in all southeastern states in the U.S.

Polygyne Queen Colony  200-800 mounds per acre  Up to 14 million ants per acre  More than one queen in each colony  Colonies reproduce by budding

 Worker ants are not territorial  Predominant form in Texas

For More Information:

Publications, slide sets, streaming video, posters, and more…

Acknowledgments Thanks to the Texas Imported Fire Ant Research & Management Plan, Texas A&M University System, for the use of many of the images seen in this presentation. Portions of this presentation were made possible by a grant from the Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Professional Development Program. Authors: - Kerry Smith – Alabama Cooperative Extension System - Molly Keck – Texas AgriLife Extension Service - Bart Drees – Texas AgriLife Extension Service - David Williams – University of Florida - Ken and Rufina Ward, Alabama A&M University

Acknowledgments Reviewers: - Dale Pollet – Louisiana State University AgCenter - Karen Vail, University of Tennessee - Chazz Hesselein, Alabama Cooperative Extension System - Kathy Flanders, Alabama Cooperative Extension System Editor, Technical Facilitator: - Neal Lee

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