Establishing Guidelines to Improve Identification of Fire Ants Solenopsis xyloni and Solenopsis invicta

Authors: Jacobson, A. L.; Thompson, D. C.; Murray, L.; Hanson, S. F.

Source: Journal of Economic Entomology, Volume 99, Number 2, April 2006 , pp. 313-322(10)

Publisher: Entomological Society of America

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As red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, continues to expand its range into the southwestern United States, it can be easily confused with the native southern fire ant, Solenopsis xyloni McCook. Variability in the morphological characteristics commonly used to differentiate these ant species was quantified by examining the length of the clypeal tooth, striations of the mesopleuron, length of antennal scape, area of the petiolar process, number and size of mandibular teeth, and color by using both scanning electron and light microscopy. Given enough samples, the average values of each of these characteristics is different between the two species; however, significant morphological variability occurs in both S. xyloni and S. invicta populations, creating an area of overlap where either of the two species could exhibit similar characteristics. Better differentiation of these two species is achieved using a combination of characteristics, but morphological techniques are not dependable unless numerous ants from each population are analyzed by a taxonomist familiar with Solenopsis. For situations requiring a more accurate identification, such as before quarantining a county or a portion of a county, a molecular technique using mitochondrial DNA and polymerase chain reaction techniques was developed.

Keywords: PCR; fire ants; identification; quarantine; scanning electron microscopy

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2006

More about this publication?
  • Journal of Economic Entomology is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December. The journal publishes articles on the economic significance of insects and is divided into the following sections: apiculture & social insects; arthropods in relation to plant disease; forum; insecticide resistance and resistance management; ecotoxicology; biological and microbial control; ecology and behavior; sampling and biostatistics; household and structural insects; medical entomology; molecular entomology; veterinary entomology; forest entomology; horticultural entomology; field and forage crops, and small grains; stored-product; commodity treatment and quarantine entomology; and plant resistance. In addition to research papers, Journal of Economic Entomology publishes Letters to the Editor, interpretive articles in a Forum section, Short Communications, Rapid Communications, and Book Reviews.
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