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Dynamic thermal structure of imported fire ant mounds

Vogt, J.T., Wallet, B., Coy, S.
Journal of insect science 2008 v.8 pp. 121
Solenopsis invicta, Solenopsis richteri, hybrids, fire ants, insect nests, thermal properties, surface temperature, diurnal variation, solar radiation, shape, aspect, slope, infrared radiation, image analysis, remote sensing, detection
A study was undertaken to characterize surface temperatures of mounds of imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and S. richteri Forel, and their hybrid, as it relates to sun position and shape of the mounds, to better understand factors that affect absorption of solar radiation by the nest mound and to test feasibility of using thermal infrared imagery to remotely sense mounds. Mean mound surface temperature peaked shortly after solar noon and exceeded mean surface temperature of the surrounding surface. Temperature range for mounds and their surroundings peaked near solar noon, and the temperature range of the mound surface exceeded that of the surrounding area. The temperature difference between mounds and their surroundings peaked around solar noon and ranged from about 2 to 10 degrees C. Quadratic trends relating temperature measurements to time of day (expressed as percentage of daylight hours from apparent sunrise to apparent sunset) explained 77 to 88% of the variation in the data. Mounds were asymmetrical, with the apex offset on average 81.5 +/- 1.2 mm to the north of the average center. South facing aspects were about 20% larger than north facing aspects. Mound surface aspect and slope affected surface temperature; this affect was greatly influenced by time of day. Thermal infrared imagery was used to illustrate the effect of mound shape on surface temperature. These results indicate that the temperature differences between mounds and their surroundings are sufficient for detection using thermal infrared remote sensing, and predictable temporal changes in surface temperature may be useful for classifying mounds in images.