[NAFEX] FW: Fire Ant Nemesis Gains Foothold

Lon J. Rombough lonrom at hevanet.com
Wed May 19 09:03:27 EDT 2004

From: ARS News Service <NewsService at ars.usda.gov>
Reply-To: ARS News Service <NewsService at ars.usda.gov>
Date: Wed, 19 May 2004 08:24:02 -0400
To: ARS News subscriber <lonrom at hevanet.com>
Subject: Fire Ant Nemesis Gains Foothold

Red Imported Fire Ant Nemesis Gains Permanent Foothold in Florida

ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Jim Core, (301) 504-1619, jcore at ars.usda.gov
May 19, 2004

The permanent establishment of a new species of phorid fly is bad news
for the red imported fire ant, according to Agricultural Research
Service scientists who are working to control the aggressive ant that
has spread across the southern United States.

The establishment of the fly Pseudacteon curvatus is significant
because it is the smallest of the decapitating flies. This means it can
parasitize small worker ants--the most abundant workers in an ant
colony. Phorid fly maggots live in the head capsules of their fire ant
hosts, eventually decapitating them and pupating inside their heads.
Phorid flies attack only fire ants.

ARS scientists at the Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary
Entomology in Gainesville, Fla., recently reported that they collected
P. curvatus flies from a research site southwest of Gainesville, one
year after the flies were initially released. This confirms the first
overwinter survival and permanent establishment of P. curvatus on red
imported fire ants in the United States.

Sanford D. Porter, acting research leader of the ARS Imported Fire Ant
and Household Insects Research Unit in Gainesville, and Juan Briano,
director of the ARS South American Biological Control Laboratory in
Argentina, originally collected P. curvatus in Argentina in October
2001. The flies were released at the Gainesville site in March 2003 and
have been found in increasing numbers ever since.

According to Porter, another biotype of P. curvatus was previously
established on hybrid fire ants, but it did not prefer red fire ants.
The more recent establishment came from a biotype that prefers the much
more abundant red imported fire ants.

There are about 20 species of phorid flies in South America that
specifically attack fire ants. P. curvatus and P. tricuspis are the only
ones known to be established here.

P. curvatus is one more natural enemy of fire ants that scientists can
add to their arsenal of biological control agents. Fire ant populations
are much greater in the United States than they are in South America,
where natural enemies appear to keep them from being the dominant

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research

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