Fire ant biting finger fire ant worker, Solenopsis invicta Fire ants, larger and smaller workers

    Our studies concerning ants focuses on the genus Solenopsis or "fire ant" and has been primarily concerned with the imported species.  However, studies have and are continuing to include a number of other genera.  The myrmecology project is more goal oriented than the other projects and much of the research is directed towards the development of new management strategies for the Imported Fire Ant (IFA) through a more through knowledge of the biology of this genera.
    Much of the research over the last 20 years has involved the recognition of, movement of, and distribution of food in IFA colonies; the behavior of fire ants and the role of several pheromones in their biology and physiological studies. Studies have included muscle histolysis following flight, the polygynous form of the fire ant, and the interactions between fire ants and other insects, small mammals and plants.  We have also tried to document some of the problems that fire ants cause. For example, we demonstrated that fire ants are a problem in electrical equipment.  Research has also been conducted to determine the efficacy of various control measures and we have conducted research evaluating both chemical and biological approaches to IFA management. For example, we conducted some of the early research to show that the insect growth regulators have potential in IFA management.
    Presently our program has expanded to include ant surveys in Texas involving both native and exotic species. This information is being used to develop a GIS/landscape ecology approach to distribution and abundance as part of a management program in cooperation with Dr Coulson. Another project focuses on native ants as IFA competitors and involves identifying the more important competitors, keys to their identification, distribution, and biology. The potential of parasites and diseases for IFA management has focused on parasitoids of the genus Orasema, parasitic stripsiptera, and the protozoan diseases "thelohania"  and includes the development of  in vitro rearing methods. Genetic studies include the construction of a large insert BAC library, the use of micro satellites to examine relatedness and an examination of male sterility in cooperation with Drs. L. Skow, S. Johnston, H. Price and S. Davis,. We are also investigating the communication system of IFA`s that includes both chemical and vibrational information.. Studies concerned with the impact of IFA`s on our ecosystem include the competition between fire ants and other ants, insects, small mammals, and plants (seeds). Several additional cooperative projects include the development of digestive inhibitors with Dr. Myer and the control, synthesis and ovarial absorption of vitellogenin with Dr. Keeley.

More details of these studies can be seen through the "Texas IFA initiative" link.

References on ants by S.B. Vinson

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