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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Glycerol in Nest Material of Red Imported Fire Ants

Author
item Chen, Jian

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: July 30, 2006
Publication Date: July 30, 2006
Citation: Chen, J. 2006. Glycerol in nest material of red imported fire ants. Meeting Abstract.

Technical Abstract: Red imported fire ant is a nest-building ant species. Workers build the nest by excavating soils. It was reported that red imported fire ants incorporated ant-derived compounds in their nest soil, such as cuticular hydrocarbons (Vander Meer R. K. unpublished data) and venom alkaloids (Blum, M. S. 1988. In Biologically Active Natural Products. pp. 438-449). Enrichment of phosphorus, potassium and other elements in mound soil was also demonstrated. I found red fire ants can build their nest in the laboratory using wetted pure silica gel as the only building material. This provides us an opportunity to study the compounds which fire ants incorporate into their nest materials without dealing with chemical interference from soil-borne compounds. Ants were allowed to build their nest in a nesting device using wetted silica gel. Another similar device with silica gel was used as a control, in which no ants were released. After fire ants built their nest, silica gel were collected from both devices and analyzed using gas chromatography - mass spectrometry. Any compounds which were found in silica gel from nesting device but not in silica gel from control device were claimed to be from fire ants. In addition to cuticular hydrocarbons and venom alkaloids, a series of other compounds were found in silica gel from nesting device. Among them was glycerol. Glycerol, a common humectant which preserves moisture, may help regulating the moisture of the nest material. However, more researches are needed to demonstrate that fire ants indeed use glycerol in regulating their nest microclimate. Currently, the relationship between initial moisture contents of nesting material and production of glycerol is under investigation in my laboratory

Last Modified: 10/25/2014
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