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Project description

Studies on flight behavior of red imported fire ants. (02XA012)
Program Exotic Pests and Diseases Research Program
L. Greenberg, Department of Entomology, UC Riverside
J.H. Klotz, Department of Entomology, UC Riverside
Host/habitat Unspecified
Pest Red Imported Fire Ant Solenopsis invicta
Discipline Entomology
Agricultural Systems
Start year (duration)  2002 (One Year)
Objectives Prepare a circular flight mill for testing red imported fire ant winged reproductives.

Test the flight duration of fire ant queens in the laboratory under different humidity conditions.

Compare the flight capabilities of queens from single- and multiple-queen fire ant colonies.

Calculate possible flight distances in southern California resulting from our laboratory measurements.

Make recommendations to the Orange Co. Fire Ant Authority and California Department of Food and Agriculture on the size of buffer zones around known infestations that need to be extensively surveyed for fire ants and how big the quarantine area needs to be around known infestations.

We intend to study flight capabilities of red imported fire ant reproductives using a circular flight mill to determine how long they can fly under conditions of low and high humidity. If we can show that flight duration is limited by southern California's desert-like conditions, then it might be possible to reduce the size of buffer zones around known fire ant infestations, thereby reducing survey costs and enabling a gradual roll back of areas under quarantine.
Final report We collected red imported fire ants in California and tested the males and females on flight mills to measure their flight capabilities. The flight mill consists of a thin piano wire suspended from a low friction pivot point in its center. The winged ant is attached to a small filament with a tiny droplet of glue, and the filament is then pressed onto a small piece of clay on the piano wire. Once the ant starts to fly, we measure its speed and duration of flight, giving us an estimate of its potential flight distance. We found that the males could fly up to 42 minutes for a maximum distance of 1.7 miles. Females flew up to 1.75 hrs and a maximum distance of 3.75 miles. The ants can fly almost twice as fast in nature, so doubling the flight distance should give us the equivalent flight distances to be expected outdoors. The flight trials we have conducted thus far are under high humidity conditions and may not reflect low humidity conditions found in much of southern California. Additional studies are planned to learn about these flight distances because they are important in determining what quarantine strategies should be in place after fire ants have been discovered.

Project will begin April 1, 2003, with a meeting with Dr. Art Appel of Auburn University to work out our future collaboration on this project.

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