Controlling invasive Argentine ants, Linepithema humile, in conservation areas using horizontal insecticide transfer

Buczkowski, Grzegorz ; Wossler, Theresa C . (2019)

CITATION: Buczkowski, G. & Wossler, T. C. 2019. Controlling invasive Argentine ants, Linepithema humile, in conservation areas using horizontal insecticide transfer. Scientific Reports, 9:19495, doi:10.1038/s41598-019-56189-1.

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Invasive ants are major agricultural and urban pests and a significant concern in conservation areas. Despite long history of control and eradication efforts, invasive ants continue to spread around the globe driven by a multitude of synergistic factors. Lack of effective management tools is one of the biggest challenges in controlling invasive ants. The goal of the current study was to improve the efficacy and safety of ant management and to develop effective control strategies for sensitive conservation areas. We utilized the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) as a model system to evaluate a target-specific pesticide delivery system that exploits the interconnected nature of social insect colonies to distribute a toxicant effectively within the colony. The approach, based entirely on horizontal transfer, takes advantage of various levels of social interactions in ant colonies to disseminate a toxicant throughout the colony. Results of laboratory studies coupled with LC/MS/MS analysis demonstrate that fipronil is toxic to Argentine ants in extremely small (nanogram) quantities and is efficiently transferred from a single treated donor to multiple recipients, causing significant secondary mortality. A field study was conducted in native fynbos plots invaded by Argentine ants. The study consisted of collecting naïve workers, treating them with fipronil, and releasing them within invaded plots. Results show that the release of fipronil-treated ants reduced Argentine ant abundance by >90% within 24 h. The horizontal transfer approach offers environmental benefits with regard to pesticide use in ecologically sensitive environments and appears ideally suited for ant management in conservation areas.

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