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Arthropod prey of imported fire ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Mississippi sweetpotato fields

Tahir Rashid, Jian Chen, James T. Vogt, Paul J. McLeod
Insect science 2013 v.20 no.4 pp. 467-471
agroecosystems, Coleoptera, Diptera, sweet potatoes, Collembola, Solenopsis invicta, arthropods, ant colonies, predators, Ipomoea batatas, Homoptera, predator-prey relationships, predation, foraging, roots, fire ants, Mississippi
The red imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta (Buren), are generally considered pests. They have also been viewed as beneficial predators feeding on other insect pests of various agroecosystems. This study documents the foraging habits of fire ants in a sweetpotato field in Mississippi. Fire ant foraging trails connecting outside colonies to a sweetpotato field were exposed and foraging ants moving out of the field toward the direction of the colony were collected along with the solid food particles they were carrying. The food material was classified as arthropod or plant in origin. The arthropod particles were identified to orders. Fire ant foragers carried more arthropods than plant material. Coleoptera and Homoptera were the most abundant groups preyed upon. These insect orders contain various economically important pests of sweetpotato. Other major hexapod groups included the orders Hemiptera, Diptera and Collembola. The quantity of foraged material varied over the season. No damage to sweetpotato roots could be attributed to fire ant feeding. Imported fire ant foraging may reduce the number of insect pests in sweetpotato fields.