Partner Sought for Development of New Biological
Control for Fire Ants By
Sharon Durham April 17, 2007
A virus technology with potential to control red imported fire ants
(Solenopsis invicta) is available for licensing from the Agricultural
Research Service (ARS). Cooperators are
being sought to develop methods for growing and packaging the virus
commercially, and for applying it under field conditions.
This pest's massive colonies can cause severe economic problems from
crop losses, damage to farm and electrical equipment, and accelerated soil
erosion. They also pose a severe threat to humans and livestock vulnerable to
the ants' stinging attacks.
Scientists in the
Fire Ant and Household Insects Research Unit at the ARS
for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, Fla.,
are working with an ant-infecting virus called Solenopsis invicta
virus-1, or SINV-1. They have found it to occur in about 20 percent of red
imported fire ant fields, where it appears to cause the slow death of infected
The mission of ARS entomologist
Valles and other researchers in the Gainesville unit is to find and exploit
disease-causing microbes that could be used to control troublesome insect
pests. This SINV-1 technologystill in its early research stageis
the first confirmed virus to be recovered from red imported fire ants.
In the laboratory, SINV-1 has proven to be both self-sustaining and
transmissible. Once introduced, it can eliminate a colony within two to three
months. That's why the Gainesville researchers think it has potential for
cultivation and development in the lab into a viable biopesticide for
controlling S. invicta.
Integrating the virus into attractant baits could yield a tool for use
by the pest-control industry, agricultural producers and harvesters, consumers
and others for whom fire ants are a persistent problem.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.