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1 December 2002 Disruption of Cotton Aphid (Homoptera: Aphididae)—Natural Enemy Dynamics by Red Imported Fire Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)
Ian Kaplan, Micky D. Eubanks
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Red imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta (Buren) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), are an invasive species found in high densities throughout southeastern agricultural systems. We tested the hypothesis that fire ants tend cotton aphids, Aphis gossypii Glover (Homoptera: Aphididae), and thus release them from predation by lady beetle larvae, Coccinella septempunctata L. and Hippodamia convergens Guerin-Meneville (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), and green lacewing larvae, Chrysoperla carnea Stephens (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae). Fire ants preferentially foraged on aphid-infested cotton, Gossypium hirsutum L., plants ( = 103 ± 47 ants per plant) compared with plants without aphids ( = 5 ± 3 ants per plant). In caged greenhouse experiments, fire ants reduced survival of lady beetle larvae by 92.9% and green lacewing larvae by 83.3%. Furthermore, strong mortality imposed on aphid predators by fire ants affected aphid survival. With the addition of fire ants to aphid-predator treatments, aphid survival approximately doubled. In a field experiment, predator larvae were more abundant in cotton plots with experimentally suppressed densities of fire ants (0.62 ± 0.11 lady beetle larvae per sample; 0.06 ± 0.02 lacewing larvae per sample) than in plots with high fire ant densities (0.23 ± 0.06 lady beetle larvae per sample; 0.01 ± 0.01 lacewing larvae per sample). Conversely, cotton aphids were more abundant in high fire ant density field plots ( = 6.83 ± 0.03 aphids per leaf) than in low fire ant density plots ( = 4.04 ± 0.03 aphids per leaf). These data suggest that red imported fire ants enhance cotton aphid survival and density in the field through predator interference.

Ian Kaplan and Micky D. Eubanks "Disruption of Cotton Aphid (Homoptera: Aphididae)—Natural Enemy Dynamics by Red Imported Fire Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)," Environmental Entomology 31(6), 1175-1183, (1 December 2002).
Received: 14 May 2002; Accepted: 1 August 2002; Published: 1 December 2002

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