Microsatellite genotyping of red imported fire ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) colonies reveals that most colonies persist in plowed pastures

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Our study focused on colony dynamics of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), in relation to the standard practice of planting rye grass (i.e., plowing) in the fall in Louisiana. Microsatellite molecular markers were used to determine genotypes of individuals from red imported fire ant colonies. These markers allowed us to monitor treatment effect by detecting changes in number and location of colonies in response to disking of pasture plots. Previous research on mound disturbance as a form of cultural control in pastures has produced mixed results. We found that the majority of colonies persisted on plots after plowing. Mound density and mound area, 5 mo after plowing, were not significantly different among treatments. In contrast, April measurements of mound volume were significantly smaller on plowed plots compared with control plots. A closer look at the rebuilding of mounds on plowed plots, during the 5 mo, showed that mound heights stayed below pretreatment measurements and they were significantly smaller than those of undisturbed mounds. Whether plowing has potential for use as a cultural control technique in reducing the impact of red imported fire ant mounds on agricultural practices in pastures remains to be seen. Conceivably, the best application of this technique will be in combination with other control measures in an integrated pest management approach to control red imported fire ants in pastures. © 2008 Entomological Society of America.

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Journal of Economic Entomology

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