Aggressive interactions between Solenopsis invicta and Linepithema humile (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) under laboratory conditions

J N Kabashima, L Greenberg, M K Rust, T D Paine
Journal of Economic Entomology 2007, 100 (1): 148-54
The Argentine ant, Linepithema humile (Mayr), and the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, are natural agonists in their country of origin. Since the first report of L. humile in California in 1907 its range expanded statewide, displacing native ant species wherever it spread. Since the discovery of established populations of S. invicta in southern California in 1998, it has been restricted to discrete areas of southern California. However, as these discrete populations expand, they are encountering large populations of L. humile, which are effective competitors for available resources and are particularly aggressive in their encounters with other ant species such as S. invicta. Most Dolichoderine ants such as L. humile do not prefer to forage on baits made with defatted corn grit and soybean oil typically used in red imported fire ant control programs. Applications of these baits in areas where distributions of these species overlap might selectively affect populations of S. invicta and give L. humile a competitive advantage. Three laboratory experiments were conducted to determine the competitive outcomes between S. invicta pitted against L. humile: 1) agonistic behavior of workers in small arenas, 2) colony interactions with different population ratios, and 3) the effects of pyriproxyfen on the competitiveness of S. invicta against L. humile. Populations of S. invicta consisting of major workers killed more L. humile than did minors or a mixture of majors and minors. When paired against L. humile colonies consisting of 1,100 workers, colonies consisting of 38 S. invicta workers were easily defeated by L. humile. Colonies consisting of 450 S. invicta workers plugged their nest entrances, but they were ultimately defeated by L. humile after 13 d. The S. invicta colonies consisting of 1,100 workers took control of the bridge connecting the colonies, invaded the L. humile colony, killed the Argentine ant queens, and removed their brood. Pyriproxyfen-treated fire ant workers took significantly longer to chase the Argentine ants from a connecting bridge than did untreated fire ants. Thus, fire ant baits may have long-term effects on intercolonial aggression between S. invicta and L. humile, especially when Argentine ant populations are high in the summer.

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