A Field Kit for Fire Ants
Accurately identifying red imported fire ants at ports of entry, inspection points, and quarantine areas could get a lot easier and faster to do, thanks to a new field kit developed by scientists with ARS and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
The invasive ant, Solenopsis invicta, is a biting and stinging pest that poses a danger not only to people and small animals but also to property and crops. Indeed, since arriving in the United States in the 1930s, the species has infested 367 million acres and caused an estimated $6 billion in control costs and damages.
Drawing on decades of expertise, ARS and APHIS researchers used a protein from the fire ant’s own venom to develop a highly specific antibody-based field kit that, in 10 minutes, can tell the pest apart from other ant species. This speed and accuracy is especially critical at ports of entry and truck inspection stations, where authorities must quickly but thoroughly check cargo or other items in transit to ensure they’re free of invasive stowaways.
The field kit, which has been commercially developed by Agdia, Inc., under the trade name InvictDetect ImmunoStrip, is equally important in maintaining fire ant quarantine zones. A new version is under development that will also identify the black imported fire ant, S. richteri.