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Pathogens, Parasitic Flies the Subjects of New Research for Fire Ant Control

Pathogens, Parasitic Flies the Subjects of New Research for Fire Ant Control

Funding from Kleberg and Bass Foundations will help biologists look for more methods of fire ant control.

 

A parastic phorid fly attacks these fire ants at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory's Fire Ant Lab.A parastic phorid fly attacks these fire ants at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory's Fire Ant Lab.

Armed with $1.72 million in new funding, researchers at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory’s Fire Ant Lab are aiming to ramp up the attack on the red imported fire ant with studies using a pathogen that may be vectored by parasitic flies.

Funding for this new research is being provided by the Robert J. Kleberg Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation, the Lee and Ramona Bass Foundation, and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

Researchers in the Fire Ant Lab are well known for their work using parasitic flies imported from Argentina as biological control for the pesky fire ants.

And while the scientists continue to monitor the spread and effectiveness of three fly species successfully released in Texas, they say that introducing a much larger community of flies and using a disease the flies vector may be keys to the most effective ant control.

In its native Argentina, the red imported fire ant is attacked by 23 species of flies, and several varieties of pathogens are known to infect these ants.

Larry Gilbert, lead researcher on the fire ant projects, says they anticipate that each fly species could have a slightly different impact on fire ants.

“Some fly species may preferentially attack at ant mounds and others at foraging trails,” he says. He says the multipronged attack could help turn a rampaging pest into something more controllable.

Gilbert, along with Rob Plowes and Ed LeBrun, will also look at the potential of the parasitic flies to vector a fire ant pathogen known as Kneallhazia. The pathogen has been reported to cause high mortality of ant workers in lab tests, but many questions remain about its natural pathology.

Kneallhazia by itself won’t likely control fire ant populations,” says Plowes, “but the flies and pathogens together may tip the balance away from the ants, making this is an important new area of research.”

The funding will support the researchers’ parallel projects in Argentina with their colleague Patricia Folgarait, who coordinates exploration, permits, field experiments and importations from Argentina.

For more information contact: Rob Plowes, Brackenridge Field Laboratory, 512-471-2825.

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Comments 3

 
Guest - Sara Sutcliffe on Friday, 05 February 2010 05:50

Thats great.. now Im hearing about a 'crazy ant'.. so I hope we can do something similar to get it under control!

Thats great.. now Im hearing about a 'crazy ant'.. so I hope we can do something similar to get it under control!
Guest - vivian hyde on Thursday, 26 January 2012 12:39

Can these flies also infect humans and pets?

Can these flies also infect humans and pets?
Guest - Sherrie on Monday, 16 April 2012 02:29

I would like to know also if these flies can infect people and animals. If not then how can I get some of the flies, I live in the Beaumont, Texas area and the ants on my property are getting out of control. Couldn't even do a garden this year it's full of ants.

I would like to know also if these flies can infect people and animals. If not then how can I get some of the flies, I live in the Beaumont, Texas area and the ants on my property are getting out of control. Couldn't even do a garden this year it's full of ants.
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