Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Solenopsis geminata
(tropical fire ant)

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Datasheet

Solenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 12 October 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Solenopsis geminata
  • Preferred Common Name
  • tropical fire ant
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Relative to other invasive fire ant species such as Solenopsis invicta, the tropical fire ant, S. geminata, has a greater world-wide distribution. Where introduced, it has often become one of the dominant pest ant species, affecting fauna and flora (...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Solenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); major and minor workers, showing lobed head of major worker.
TitleAdults
CaptionSolenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); major and minor workers, showing lobed head of major worker.
Copyright©Bastiaan M. Drees/Texas A&M University
Solenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); major and minor workers, showing lobed head of major worker.
AdultsSolenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); major and minor workers, showing lobed head of major worker.©Bastiaan M. Drees/Texas A&M University
Solenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); queen (largest ant in middle of frame) and worker ants.
TitleQueen and workers
CaptionSolenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); queen (largest ant in middle of frame) and worker ants.
Copyright©Bastiaan M. Drees/Texas A&M University
Solenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); queen (largest ant in middle of frame) and worker ants.
Queen and workersSolenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); queen (largest ant in middle of frame) and worker ants.©Bastiaan M. Drees/Texas A&M University
Solenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); feeding on eggs of the rice black bug Scotinophara coarctata.
TitlePredation
CaptionSolenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); feeding on eggs of the rice black bug Scotinophara coarctata.
Copyright©James Litsinger
Solenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); feeding on eggs of the rice black bug Scotinophara coarctata.
PredationSolenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); feeding on eggs of the rice black bug Scotinophara coarctata.©James Litsinger
Solenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); feeding on eggs of the golden snail Pomacea.
TitlePredation
CaptionSolenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); feeding on eggs of the golden snail Pomacea.
Copyright©James Litsinger
Solenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); feeding on eggs of the golden snail Pomacea.
PredationSolenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); feeding on eggs of the golden snail Pomacea.©James Litsinger
Solenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); ant mounds. Welsaco, Texas, USA.
TitleAnt mounds
CaptionSolenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); ant mounds. Welsaco, Texas, USA.
Copyright©Bastiaan M. Drees/Texas A&M University
Solenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); ant mounds. Welsaco, Texas, USA.
Ant moundsSolenopsis geminata (tropical fire ant); ant mounds. Welsaco, Texas, USA.©Bastiaan M. Drees/Texas A&M University

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Solenopsis geminata (Fabricius)

Preferred Common Name

  • tropical fire ant

Other Scientific Names

  • Atta geminata
  • Solenopsis geminata rufa Jerd.

International Common Names

  • English: brown ant; fire ant; fire ant, tropical; red ant; stinging ant
  • Spanish: hormiga brava; hormiga brava roja; hormiga caribe
  • French: fourmie

Local Common Names

  • Netherlands: Tabaks-mier

EPPO code

  • SOLEGE (Solenopsis geminata)
  • SOLEGR (Solenopsis geminata rufa)

Summary of Invasiveness

Top of page Relative to other invasive fire ant species such as Solenopsis invicta, the tropical fire ant, S. geminata, has a greater world-wide distribution. Where introduced, it has often become one of the dominant pest ant species, affecting fauna and flora (Hoffmann et al., 1999; Geetha Viswanathan and Ajay Narendra, 2000).

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Hymenoptera
  •                         Family: Formicidae
  •                             Genus: Solenopsis
  •                                 Species: Solenopsis geminata

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page Taber (2000) provided the historical background of the taxonomic status of the tropical fire ant, S. geminata. The fire ants comprise a group of 18 to 20 species that are native to the New World and within the genus Solenopsis. This genus contains approximately 200 species including 'thief ants', most of which are incapable of stinging humans, and nest close to other ant nests and rob them of stored food and brood. Trager (1991) recently revised this group of ants. Several colour forms have been recognized (Hölldobler and Wilson, 1990). Barrion et al. (1979) refer to the subspecies Solenopsis geminata rufa.

Description

Top of page Hung et al. (1977) provided a key for the identification of fire ants in Texas, USA. S. geminata worker ants have two nodes between the thorax and abdomen, distinct compound eyes, ten segments on the antennae with two segments forming a club, no spines on the propodeum and are over 2 mm long. Major worker ants have a deep groove on the vertex of the head, mandibles without teeth and are entirely black, with a short antennal scape reaching half-way to the vertex (Vinson et al., 2003).

Distribution

Top of page This species is native to the New World, including the Caribbean islands such as Puerto Rico. It has spread world-wide, in some cases to environments where the conditions are unfavourable for this species to survive outdoors such as Winnipeg, Canada (Ayre, 1977).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

BangladeshPresentBaksha, 2001
Brunei DarussalamPresentEPPO, 2014
ChinaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
-GuangdongPresentIntroducedZeng et al., 2005
-HebeiPresentEPPO, 2014
-Hong KongPresentIntroduced Invasive APPPC, 1987; Hong Kong Government Information Centre, 2005; EPPO, 2014
-MacauPresentEPPO, 2014
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)PresentIntroduced Invasive Lake and O'Dowd, 1991; EPPO, 2014
IndiaPresentIntroducedGeorge and Narendran, 1987; Lakshmikantha et al., 2001; ISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014; Lokeshwari et al., 2015
-BiharPresentEPPO, 2014
-KarnatakaPresentIntroduced Invasive Lakshmikantha et al., 1996; Sunil Joshi, 2008
-KeralaPresent
-MaharashtraPresentIntroduced Invasive Teli and Salunkhe, 1994
-OdishaPresentIntroduced Invasive Sridhar et al., 2001; EPPO, 2014
-Tamil NaduPresentEPPO, 2014
-Uttar PradeshPresentIntroducedDhiman and Pravesh, 2008
-West BengalPresentIntroduced Invasive Chintha et al., 2002; EPPO, 2014
IndonesiaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
-JavaPresentEPPO, 2014
-Nusa TenggaraPresentEPPO, 2014
-SulawesiPresentEPPO, 2014
-SumatraPresentIntroduced Invasive van den Berg et al., 1995; EPPO, 2014
JapanPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009
MalaysiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Lee et al., 2002; ISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentEPPO, 2014
-SabahPresentEPPO, 2014
-SarawakPresentEPPO, 2014
MyanmarPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
PakistanPresentIntroduced Invasive Ahmed et al., 1989
PhilippinesPresentIntroduced Invasive Yusa, 2001; ISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
TaiwanPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2005; ISSG, 2009
United Arab EmiratesPresentIntroduced Invasive Collingwood et al., 1997; ISSG, 2009
VietnamPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014

Africa

GabonPresentEPPO, 2014
LiberiaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
MauritiusPresentEPPO, 2014
RéunionPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009

North America

Canada
-ManitobaAbsent, intercepted onlyAyre, 1977
MexicoPresentNativeCastillo-Guevara and Rico-Gray, 2002; ISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
USAPresentNativeISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
-AlabamaPresentNativeGlancey et al., 1976; EPPO, 2014
-ArizonaPresentEPPO, 2014
-CaliforniaPresentNativeRisch and Carroll, 1986; EPPO, 2014
-FloridaPresentNativeWetterer & O'Hara, 2002; EPPO, 2014
-GeorgiaPresentBrinkman et al., 2001; EPPO, 2014
-HawaiiPresentNativeAvila and Goff, 1998; EPPO, 2014
-LouisianaPresentEPPO, 2014
-MississippiPresentNativeRoss et al., 1987; EPPO, 2014
-New MexicoPresentEPPO, 2014
-North CarolinaPresentEPPO, 2014
-South CarolinaPresentNativeBass & Hayes, 1976; EPPO, 2014
-TexasPresentNativeMorrison et al., 1999; EPPO, 2014

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
BahamasPresentNativeISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
BarbadosPresentNativeISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
BelizePresentNativeISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009; ISSG, 2009
Costa RicaPresentNativePerfecto and Vandermeer, 1996; ISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
CubaPresentNativeISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
DominicaPresentNativeISSG, 2009
Dominican RepublicPresentNativeISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
GrenadaPresentNativeISSG, 2009
GuadeloupePresentNativePavis et al., 1992
GuatemalaPresentNativeISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
HaitiPresentNativeISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
HondurasPresentNativeCanas and O'Neil, 1998; ISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
JamaicaPresentNativeISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
MartiniquePresentNativeISSG, 2009
Netherlands AntillesPresentNativeISSG, 2009
NicaraguaPresentNativePerfecto, 1991
PanamaPresentNativeTorres, 1984; ISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
Puerto RicoPresentNativeBuren, 1982; ISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentNativeISSG, 2009
Saint LuciaPresentNativeISSG, 2009
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentNativeISSG, 2009
Trinidad and TobagoPresentNativeLaurence, 1987; ISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
Turks and Caicos IslandsPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009

South America

BoliviaPresentNativeISSG, 2009
BrazilPresentNativeISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
-BahiaPresentNativeDelabie and Fowler, 1995; EPPO, 2014
-CearaPresentEPPO, 2014
-Minas GeraisPresentNativeFowler et al., 1995
-ParaPresentEPPO, 2014
-PernambucoPresentEPPO, 2014
-Sao PauloPresentEPPO, 2014
ChilePresentEPPO, 2014
ColombiaPresentNativeISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
EcuadorPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
-Galapagos IslandsPresentAesch and Cherix, 2005
French GuianaPresentNativeTorregrossa and Kermarrec, 1984; EPPO, 2014
GuyanaPresentNativeISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
PeruPresentNativeEscalante, 1979; EPPO, 2014
VenezuelaPresentNativeISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014

Oceania

American SamoaPresentIntroducedWetterer Vargo, 2003; ISSG, 2009
AustraliaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentIntroduced Invasive Hoffmann et al., 1999; EPPO, 2014
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009
FijiPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Morrison, 1997; ISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
GuamPresentIntroduced Invasive Schreiner and Nafus, 1988; ISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
KiribatiPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014
SamoaPresentWetterer Vargo, 2003; EPPO, 2014
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroducedISSG, 2009
TongaPresentIntroducedISSG, IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group; APPPC, 1987; ISSG, 2009; EPPO, 2014Reported invasive in 1967

History of Introduction and Spread

Top of page Taber (2000) provides a world-wide distribution map for S. geminata. This species has been widely spread through commerce to new locations in North and South America, Africa, Australia, Asia and the islands of Oceania, where it can become a dominant species (George and Narendran, 1987; Porter et al., 1997). This is a predominantly tropical species.

In parts of southern USA, the historical distribution of S. geminata has been reduced in areas invaded by high population levels of imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta and Solenopsis richteri) (Vinson et al., 2003). Thus, historical records may no longer express the current distribution.

Risk of Introduction

Top of page The phytosanitary risk is high for areas that do not already have this species and are located in warmer climates.

Habitat

Top of page S. geminata generally nests in the soil of suitable environments.

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page S. geminata is omnivorous, but among the fire ants is known more as a seed-feeding species. The morphologically distinctive major worker ants are specialized in collecting and feeding on the seeds of many plant species, including weeds (Wilson 1978; Carroll and Risch, 1984; Tennant and Porter 1991; Sangal and Neena Bakshi, 1994). Although this ant is reported to occur in a number of crops (avocado, banana, cabbage, citrus, cocoa, corn, cotton, coffee, cucumber, eggplant, mango, okra, papaya, pastureland, pineapple, sorghum, soybeans, strawberries, sugarcane, tobacco, tomato, rice and vegetables) and in cultivated land, it is seldom reported to be a direct pest of these crops.

Seed loss to crops such as cabbage, corn, sorghum and tomato can be significant. However, this species also girdles plants, imbibes sap, and bites branches, shoots, buds, flowers and fruits (Hill, 1975). The ants in nests that are built at the base of citrus tree trunks gnaw through the bark (Essig, 1926; Wolcott, 1933). Indirectly, S. geminata can negatively affect plant health by tending sucking insects (Homoptera), or in one case, prevent pollination (Carroll and Risch, 1983). However, because these ants sting, they can affect field workers that are sensitive to arthropod venom, and can affect equipment such as drip irrigation systems (Ota and Chang, 1981) and electrical equipment (Prins, 1985). In addition, they occur in urban areas (such as in turf and occasionally enter buildings), wildlife areas, forests and other sites suitable for the species.

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Abelmoschus esculentus (okra)MalvaceaeHabitat/association
Ananas comosus (pineapple)BromeliaceaeHabitat/association
Brassica oleracea var. capitata (cabbage)BrassicaceaeMain
Capsella bursa-pastoris (shepherd's purse)BrassicaceaeMain
Carica papaya (pawpaw)CaricaceaeHabitat/association
Cenchrus ciliaris (Buffel grass)PoaceaeMain
CitrusRutaceaeMain
Coffea (coffee)RubiaceaeMain
Coffea arabica (arabica coffee)RubiaceaeHabitat/association
Cordia myxa (sebesten)BoraginaceaeHabitat/association
Croton bonplandianusEuphorbiaceaeHabitat/association
Cucumis sativus (cucumber)CucurbitaceaeHabitat/association
Cynodon dactylon (Bermuda grass)PoaceaeMain
Eleusine coracana (finger millet)PoaceaeHabitat/association
Festuca arundinacea (tall fescue)PoaceaeMain
Fragaria ananassa (strawberry)RosaceaeMain
Glycine max (soyabean)FabaceaeMain
Gossypium hirsutum (Bourbon cotton)MalvaceaeHabitat/association
Grewia asiatica (phalsa)TiliaceaeHabitat/association
Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato)ConvolvulaceaeHabitat/association
Leptochloa dubia (green strangletop (USA))Main
MalachraMalvaceaeMain
Mangifera indica (mango)AnacardiaceaeHabitat/association
Musa (banana)MusaceaeHabitat/association
Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco)SolanaceaeHabitat/association
Oryza sativa (rice)PoaceaeHabitat/association
Paspalum conjugatum (sour paspalum)PoaceaeMain
Paspalum distichum (knotgrass)PoaceaeMain
Passiflora (passionflower)PassifloraceaeHabitat/association
pasturesMain
Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu grass)PoaceaeMain
Persea americana (avocado)LauraceaeHabitat/association
Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane)PoaceaeHabitat/association
Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)SolanaceaeMain
Solanum melongena (aubergine)SolanaceaeHabitat/association
Solanum spp.SolanaceaeMain
Sorghum bicolor (sorghum)PoaceaeMain
Theobroma cacao (cocoa)SterculiaceaeHabitat/association
Trichosanthes dioica (pointed gourd)CucurbitaceaeHabitat/association
Zea mays (maize)PoaceaeHabitat/association

Growth Stages

Top of page Flowering stage, Fruiting stage, Pre-emergence, Seedling stage, Vegetative growing stage

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Fruit / external feeding
Growing point / external feeding
Seeds / external feeding
Stems / external feeding
Stems / gummosis or resinosis
Stems / internal feeding
Vegetative organs / external feeding
Vegetative organs / internal feeding
Whole plant / cut at stem base
Whole plant / external feeding
Whole plant / plant dead; dieback
Whole plant / wilt

Biology and Ecology

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The research of S. geminata is fairly extensive, particularly from locations where it is an introduced exotic species. In these locations, S. geminata often becomes one of the more dominant ant species, causing many problems similar to those caused by Solenopsis invicta (Porter et al., 1997).
The biology of S. geminata is similar to other closely related fire ant species. Wilson (1978) described caste behaviour. The head capsules of the major worker ants are distinctly larger and lobed relative to those of minor workers because of their specialized seed foraging and milling behaviour.

The colonies of S. geminata can either be monogyne, each containing a single queen ant, or polygyne, containing many reproductively-active queen ants (Adams et al., 1976; MacKay et al., 1990; Williams and Whelan, 1991).

Genetics

Ross et al. (1987) has evaluated the genetics of S. geminata and other fire ant species. This species has been known to hybridize with other closely related fire ant species; Morrison (2000) discusses the hybrid Solenopsis geminata x Solenopsis xyloni.

Physiology and Phenology

The pheromones known for S. geminata are discussed by Blum (1982) and Jaffe et al. (1985), and considerable work has been carried out to characterize the ant's venom (e.g. Battenfield et al., 1982).

Reproductive Biology

The winged reproductive male and female S. geminata leave the nests on mating or nuptial flights, late in the day or at dusk on days of or following rains during warmer periods of the year (Travis, 1941; Hung et al., 1977; Trager, 1991). Two forms of queen ants are recognized and have different mating strategies (McInnes and Tschinkel, 1995). Following mating, the female reproductive ants or queens drop their wings and dig a burrow to start a new colony. The queens begin laying eggs and can lay up to 1123 eggs per day (Travis, 1941). Development from egg to adult can take from 3 to 4 weeks and up to 2 months (Wheeler and Wheeler, 1955; Vargo, 1993). Egg hatch occurs in 14 to 17 days, larval development in 24 days to 6 weeks and the pupal stages last up to 19 days (Veeresh, 1990a). The worker ants include minor workers (2.6 mm larvae), major workers (5.2 mm larvae) and intermediate sized workers. Colony maturity occurs in 1 to 2 years (Wilson and Taylor, 1967). The colonies have been reported to contain up to 100,000 ants (Way et al., 1998), but other estimates are lower, generally ranging from 10,000 to 12,000 (Veeresh, 1990a, b).

S. geminata, like other ants, are social insects. This species generally builds nests in the soil in open, sunny areas, although they can also occur in the shade and inside structures. The nests are formed as craters or mounds in which the ants seek optimum temperatures for reproduction. At certain times of the year, the nests have multiple entrance holes (16 to 20 per nest) in mounds up to 2 ft wide and 12 inches tall (Van Pelt, 1958), although most mounds are not as tall or even crater-like. The subterranean foraging tunnels (up to 3 inches deep) extend from the nest in all directions and may be 100 ft long, with vertical tunnels extending up to 6 ft deep in the ground (Wheeler, 1910). The density of colonies in areas varies greatly and can range from 10 mounds per acre to 80 mounds per acre in native habitats (McInnes and Tschinkel, 1995), but in some areas the polygyne forms of the ant can reach up to 1000 mounds per acre (MacKay et al., 1990). In India, mound densities have been reported as 1500 mounds per acre (Veeresh, 1990a). The colonies frequently migrate to new locations (Lakshmikantha et al., 1996), migrating over 100 ft from the original nest locations.

Environmental Requirements

S. geminata often colonizes disturbed habitats (Risch, 1981; Perfecto, 1991). It is capable of colonizing most types of soils and media. It occurs in shaded orchards and woods (Essig, 1926; Wilson and Brown, 1958), as well as open areas. Habitat types vary greatly (Wheeler, 1910; Travis, 1941; Creighton, 1950; Van Pelt, 1958; Whitcomb et al., 1972; Buren et al., 1974; Moody et al., 1981; Moody and Franke, 1982; Carroll and Risch, 1984; Tschinkel, 1988; Verhaagh, 1991; Muniappan and Marutani, 1992; McInnes and Tshinkel, 1995; Way et al., 1998). This species prefers low to mid-elevations below 1500 ft (Forel, 1993; Perfecto, 1994), but has been reported to occur at 3000 ft (Smith, 1936). It prefers mild winter temperatures and high humidity (Snelling, 1963). Cokendolpher and Francke (1985) described the temperature preferences of S. geminata. The influence of microhabitats on distribution is discussed by Torres (1984). Foraging occurs in the temperature range of 77 to 90°F, with extreme temperature limits that prevent foraging below 36°F and above 122°F (George and Narendran, 1987).

Associations

Although S. geminata is reported to be associated with a wide variety of crop and animal commodities in the field, the impact of the ants is often not reported to be negative, nor is injury always caused to the agricultural commodity. In many cases, the foraging ants prey on pest arthropods such as ticks, caterpillars and beetle life stages. They are associated with sucking insects such as aphids, leafhoppers and other Homoptera, which they 'tend', to feed on the sugary honeydew secretions (Tennant and Porter, 1991).

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Burenella dimorpha Pathogen Pupae
Calotes nemoricola Predator
Mattesia geminata Pathogen Larvae
Pseudacteon bifidus Parasite Adults
Pseudacteon crawfordi Parasite Adults
Pseudacteon litoralis Parasite
Pseudacteon wasmanni Parasite
Sitana ponticeriana Predator
Solenopsis invicta Predator Adults/Larvae/Pupae
Solenopsis richteri Predator Adults/Larvae/Pupae

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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S. geminata can be moved by the human transport of colonies or mated queen ants in soil or other suitable nesting materials, or naturally by mating flights or the movement of colonies floating in floodwater (Litsinger et al., 1986), similar to the ways in which Solenopsis invicta and Solenopsis richteri have been spread to new areas. The cracks and crevices of stems and bark could harbour mated queen ants of small colonies, particularly associated with soil or potting media. The ants or 'worked' soil would be visible to the naked eye. The movement by humans has led to infestations on many remote islands such as the Galapagos Islands (Williams and Whelan, 1991) and Guam (Schreiner and Nafus, 1988).

Agricultural Practices

S. geminata often colonizes disturbed habitats (Risch, 1981; Perfecto, 1991). The removal of rain forests or the cultivation of fields causes rapid colonization by this species, making it a dominant ant in many agricultural systems.

Pathogen Transmission

S. geminata and other ant species may also be associated with the transmission of some plant diseases through the injuries made by the ant (Suarez-Sotolongo, 1990).
 

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Soil, sand and gravel Yes

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Growing medium accompanying plants adults; eggs; larvae; pupae Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Flowers/Inflorescences/Cones/Calyx
Fruits (inc. pods)
Leaves
Roots
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants
True seeds (inc. grain)
Wood

Wood Packaging

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Wood Packaging not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Loose wood packing material
Non-wood
Processed or treated wood
Solid wood packing material with bark
Solid wood packing material without bark

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) None
Crop production None
Environment (generally) None
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production None
Human health Negative
Livestock production Positive
Native fauna Negative
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species None
Tourism None
Trade/international relations Negative
Transport/travel None

Impact

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S. geminata is considered to be an economically important pest ant (Lakshmikantha et al., 2001) even in Florida, USA, this species' native habitat (Wojcik et al., 1976). Stand loss in agricultural crops can be significant where this species is abundant. Perfecto (1994) reported a loss of 90% of tomato seeds. The loss of corn and sorghum seeds and seedlings has also been reported (Carroll and Risch, 1984; Trabanino et al., 1989). However, the overall estimates of economic losses are unavailable. Economic benefits can also be provided by this species (Risch and Carroll, 1982); it has been documented to be a major predator of many other arthropod pests such as engorged ticks, Boophilus microplus (Barre et al., 1991) and fruit flies (Eskafi and Kolbe, 1990).

Environmental Impact

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The impact of S. geminata is both positive and negative. Nesting activities improve soil conditions (Carroll and Risch, 1983) and foraging can reduce weed seeds (Risch and Carroll, 1986) and pest arthropod populations.

Impact: Biodiversity

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S. geminata has often become one of the dominant pest ant species where it has been introduced, affecting the fauna and flora (Hoffmann et al., 1999; Geetha Viswanathan and Ajay Narendra, 2000). This species affects the seed of many plant species, moving and consuming them as discussed by Horvitz (1981), Nesom (1981) and others. In native areas (New World), subsequently invaded by imported fire ant species (Solenopsis invicta and Solenopsis richteri in the south-eastern USA), S. geminata populations (and its distribution) have been reduced (Vinson et al., 2003).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Drosophila digressaUSA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiPredation,
Hylaeus anthracinus (anthricinan yellow-faced bee)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014a
Hylaeus assimulans (assimulans yellow-faced bee)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014b
Hylaeus facilis (easy yellow-faced bee)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014c
Hylaeus hilaris (hilaris yellow-faced bee)USA ESA species proposed for listing USA ESA species proposed for listingHawaiiPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014d
Hylaeus kuakea (Hawaiian yellow-faced bee)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014e
Hylaeus longicepsUSA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014f
Hylaeus manaUSA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014g

Social Impact

Top of page Because of the ability for S. geminata to bite and sting, this species is considered a pest of humans and animals. However, relative to the more aggressive imported fire ant species (Solenopsis invicta and Solenopsis richteri), it is less medically important.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Impact mechanisms
  • Predation

Uses

Top of page The presence of S. geminata can be beneficial. However, other than use in conservation biological control programmes, the ant has not been used for augmentative biological control.

Diagnosis

Top of page Suspect-ants should be collected in a vial of alcohol using forceps, cotton swabs or other suitable collecting methods that prevent the collector from being stung. Five to twenty-five specimens, particularly of the larger, major worker ants, should be collected and submitted to an identification specialist for species verification.

Detection and Inspection

Top of page

The methods used for detecting and inspecting other fire ant species, such as Solenopsis invicta, can be used for S. geminata. Both species build nests in the soil and create mounds with honey-comb-shaped galleries in which ants reside. These can be observed on the soil surface, particularly after rainy periods. Any sites where the soil appears to be 'worked' and formed into small granulate particles should be inspected for the presence of ants. This is particularly important during the inspection of articles of trade stacked on pallets or containing suitable media for ant colony nesting. However, baiting methods are more suitable for detecting ants in transported articles, or in locations or seasons when the ants do not construct visible mounds. Bait stations to monitor S. geminata, using attractive substances such as tuna fish, have been evaluated (Nestel and Dickschen, 1990; Islam et al., 2000).

The Pacific Invasive Ant Key (PIAKey) manual Pacific Invasive Ants Taxonomy Workshop Manual can both be used in identifying invasive ants in the Pacific region.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page S. geminata is similar to the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta (see data sheet on Solenopsis invicta).

Prevention and Control

Top of page

The efforts to develop controls for this pest in southern USA were reported as early as the 1930s (Travis, 1938, 1939), suggesting that this species of fire ant was considered pestiferous even before the arrival of the imported species. However, relative to the control programmes developed for the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, fewer management programmes have been specifically developed for S. geminata. Certainly, because these are both fire ants (closely related and similar in biology) the control programmes developed for S. invicta should also be useful for control of S. geminata. In areas of the world where S. geminata has been imported, their populations may be greater and control justified (George and Narendran, 1987; Porter et al., 1997). In India, management options are presented by Veeresh (1990b).

Phytosanitary Measures

The inspection of articles of trade that can potentially harbour this species (e.g. nursery stock, sod, hay, field-working equipment or articles of trade associated with soil or other suitable nesting media) should be routine and can prevent the introduction and spread of this species.

Cultural Control and Sanitary Methods

Ota and Chang (1979, 1981) and Heinz and Carlson (1984) developed drip irrigation in Hawaiian sugarcane fields and assessed it as resistant to damage by foraging S. geminata.

Host-Plant Resistance

None has been reported.

Biological Control

Although numerous organisms have been identified as natural enemies of S. geminata, few of these have been used as a method of control.

Chemical Control

Neem extract (azadiractin) has recently been assessed as a treatment for S. geminata (Geetha Viswanathan et al., 2002).

Field Monitoring/Economic Threshold Levels

No economic threshold levels have been developed for S. geminata.

IPM Programmes

As a species of 'fire ant', pest management programmes developed for S. invicta can be applied to this species where it occurs and causes problems that justify suppression.

References

Top of page

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