Biological and Ecological Aspects of Field Released Fire Ant Decapitating Flies Pseudacteon spp. (Diptera: Phoridae), Parasitoids of Red Imported Fire Ants Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)
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Multiple Pseudacteon phorid fly species, including P. tricuspis and P. curvatus, have been released in the southern United States beginning in 1997 and 2003 (respectively) to serve as biological control agents against red imported fire ants Solenopsis invicta Buren (hereafter referred to as RIFA). Field research in the United States on phorid/RIFA interactions has addressed establishment and spread of released species. Additionally, studies are needed on phorid biology and ecology with respect to spatial distribution and phenology, phorid/habitat associations and phorid-mediated affects on RIFA foraging patterns. A suite of manipulative laboratory and field experiments/observations were conducted to 1) develop a novel phorid sampling device to provide uniform and repeatable sampling of flies, 2) assess spatial distributions and phenology of Pseudacteon tricuspis and P. curvatus, 3) assess P. tricuspis and P. curvatus habitat associations and 4) assess phorid-mediated affects on RIFA foraging patterns and caste ratios. PTS Traps (developed for this research) are significantly more effective than previous sampling methods in terms of mean number of flies collected, efficiency of use and % trap success. Data collected with these traps allowed for the determination of patterns of species-specific phenology and relative densities through time and speciesspecific numerical/spatial superiority (Chapter IV). P. curvatus was significantly more abundant than P. tricuspis in only one of the habitat types sampled (df (160) = 4.57, P < 0.005). P. tricuspis densities did not differ significantly among habitat type. Llaboratory experiments revealed that phorid-exposed RIFA colonies foraged less intensively diurnally (df = 1,558; P < 0.05) and more intensively nocturnally (df = 778; P < 0.05) relative to control colonies. Field data regarding this compensatory nocturnal foraging shift did not corroborate those of the laboratory work. In the field there was no significant difference in foraging intensity during nocturnal (df (18) = -0.486, P = 0.633) and diurnal (df (18) = 1.375 P = 0.186) sampling periods. Lastly, chi-square analysis of RIFA forager size-classes revealed significant differences between phorid-infested (treatment) and phorid-free (control) sites (X 2 = 6811.85, df = 3, P < 0.05) with a significantly greater proportion of small RIFA foragers at the phorid-infested site.
Phoridae, Formicidae, Pseudacteon spp., Solenopsis invicta, PTS Trap, Biological Control
Puckett, Robert T. (2008). Biological and Ecological Aspects of Field Released Fire Ant Decapitating Flies Pseudacteon spp. (Diptera: Phoridae), Parasitoids of Red Imported Fire Ants Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from