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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BIOLOGY, GENOMICS, AND INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT OF INVASIVE ANTS

Location: Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects

Title: Colony growth of two species of Solenopsis fire ants(Hymenoptera: Formicidae) reared with crickets and beef liver

Authors
item Gavilanez Slone, Jenny
item Porter, Sanford

Submitted to: Florida Entomologist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 25, 2013
Publication Date: December 1, 2013
Citation: Gavilanez Slone, J.M., Porter, S.D. 2013. Colony growth of two species of Solenopsis fire ants(Hymenoptera: Formicidae) reared with crickets and beef liver. Florida Entomologist. 96(4):1482-1488.

Interpretive Summary: Most diets for rearing fire ants and other ants contain insects such as crickets or mealworms. Unfortunately, insect diets are expensive, especially for large rearing operations, and are not always easily available. This study was designed to examine colony growth of fire ants on beef liver. Scientists at the USDA-ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, FL performed four experiments: three with red imported fire ant colonies and one with native tropical fire ant colonies. In these experiments, they compared the net growth of colonies fed raw liver, pureed cooked liver agar, and/or raw liver agar, all with crickets as an experimental standard diet. Both liver and cricket diets produced healthy growing colonies at the end of 6-8 weeks. However, colonies fed crickets were 1.7 to 3 times larger than those fed with liver. Raw liver and raw liver agar diets performed similarly. Cooking the liver significantly reduced the colony growth in one of the three tests, but contrary to expectations, boiling the liver, even for long periods, still reared healthy fire ant colonies. This study will benefit USDA-ARS and other scientific organizations because it demonstrates that beef liver is an effective, easily available, and low cost alternative to live crickets for rearing fire ants and many other kinds of ants in laboratory colonies for periods up to 6 months if maximum growth rates are not needed. However, crickets are still recommended for research studies where maximal growth is important. Also, poor survival of liver-fed colonies after eight months may indicate that beef liver is not an acceptable long-term diet. Pilot tests with canned liver cat food and a dry dog food showed they were palatable but not suitable for brood production in fire ant colonies.

Technical Abstract: Most diets for rearing fire ants and other ants contain insects such as crickets or mealworms. Unfortunately, insect diets are expensive, especially for large rearing operations, and are not always easily available. This study was designed to examine colony growth of Solenopsis fire ants on beef liver. Four experiments were performed: three with Solenopsis invicta Buren colonies and one with Solenopsis geminata (F.) colonies. In these experiments, we compared the net growth of colonies fed raw liver, pureed cooked liver agar, and/or raw liver agar, all with crickets as an experimental standard. Both liver and cricket diets produced healthy growing colonies at the end of 6-8 weeks. However, colonies fed crickets were 1.7 to 3 times larger than those fed with liver. Raw liver and raw liver agar diets performed similarly. Cooking the liver significantly reduced the colony growth in one of the three tests, but contrary to expectations, boiling the liver, even for long periods, still reared healthy fire ant colonies. This study demonstrates that beef liver is an acceptable diet for rearing laboratory colonies of both S. invicta and S. geminata for periods of six months when maximum growth rates are not needed. However, crickets are recommended for research studies where maximal growth is important. Also, poor survival of liver-fed colonies after eight months may indicate that beef liver is not an acceptable long-term diet. Pilot tests with canned liver cat food and a dry dog food showed they were palatable but not suitable for brood production in fire ant colonies.

Last Modified: 9/2/2014
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