What is it about?
Invasive fire ants are a serious threat throughout the world. For most countries, once fire ant invasion starts, there's no stopping them. Specific knowledge about the biology of invasive species is invaluable in designing effective strategies against their spread. The failure of the US and China in controlling fire ants clearly illustrate that modern insecticides and technology will not work against fire ants. In spite of a decades-long ever-growing growing literature concerning fire ants biology, little attention has been given to a fundamental step to their invasive success: the founding of new colonies. For a period of several weeks to few months, new queens must defend their egg clutch against local predators and competitors. These include mainly local dominant ant species. In total absence of defending workers, how can the queens succeed? Our study demonstrate lonely fire ant queens are actually heavily armed against invaders. Their venom can be more incapacitating than that of worker's against other ants. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the main incapacitating (by K.O.) effect comes from a single alkaloid molecule which is prevalent among all fire ant venoms.
Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash
Why is it important?
The discovery of a fundamental chemical weapon employed by invasive fire ants during the invasion open a door ajar for new control strategies. For example, key native species may be resistant to fire ant venom incapacitation, and thus used as a natural line of defence. Also, designing strategies to neutralise founding queens is bound to slow down the establishment of new fire ant populations. The implications are countless, awaiting on further studies.
Read the Original
This page is a summary of: Queen venom isosolenopsin A delivers rapid incapacitation of fire ant competitors, Toxicon, February 2019, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2018.11.428.
You can read the full text:
“On the Venom Solenopins alkaloids of Fire Ants: Beware a Lonely Queen”, Mendeley Data, v1
Raw data files and deeper explanations and personal notes regarding the experiments described in the published paper. Also includes R scripts, and extra videos, pictures.
Preprint: Venom Isosolenopsin A Delivers Rapid Knockdown of Fire Ant Competitors
This is the version submitted to Toxicon for publication, prior to substantial modifications requested by reviewers. May interest readers who'd like to see the same data evaluated from different perspectives, particularly plots. Like a "Director's Cut".
Preliminary Experiment: Crazy Ant worker vs. Fire Ant Queen venom
One crazy ant worker is challenged with a single droplet of fire ant queen venom in the face, as it happens in a natural encounter. Watch it get intoxication, wither up, undergo paralysis within 1 min from exposure. Death follows in few hours.
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