Overview

Comprehensive Description

richteri Forel HNS 1909.

Literature records: Ñeembucú (Fowler 1981).

  • Wild, A. L. (2007): A catalogue of the ants of Paraguay (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zootaxa 1622, 1-55: 37-37, URL:http://www.antbase.org/ants/publications/21367/21367.pdf
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Taxonomic History

Solenopsis pylades var. richteri Forel, 1909a PDF: 267 (w.q.) ARGENTINA. AntCat AntWiki

Taxonomic history

Subspecies of Solenopsis saevissima: Santschi, 1916e PDF: 379; Creighton, 1950a PDF: 232; Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz. Rio de Janeiro 50:49-59. [1952-03]">Wilson, 1952b PDF: 58.
Raised to species: Buren, 1972 PDF: 4.
Senior synonym of Solenopsis tricuspis: Creighton, 1930b PDF: 87; of Solenopsis oblongiceps: Trager, 1991 PDF: 187.
See also: Rhoades, 1977: 1.
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Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Geographic Range

Black Imported Fire Ants (BIFA), Solenopsis richteri, are a native of South America. The range of these ants in South America extends from northern Argentina throughout Uruguay and into southern Brazil. The species was accidentally introduced into the southeastern United States around 1918 in the city of Mobile, Alabama. From there it spread outward until the it came into competition with Red Imported Fire Ants Solentopsis invicta upon the introduction of this latter species approximately twenty years later. The range of BIFA in the United States has now stabilized in Mississippi and Alabama, although the species is beginning to spread into western Tennessee.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Introduced )

  • Holldobler, B., E. Wilson. 1990. The Ants. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Holldobler, B., E. Wilson. 1994. Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Taber, S. 2000. Fire Ants. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press.
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Paraguay: Ñeembucú
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Characteristics common to all fire ants include a two-segmented waist, an absence of spines on the back of the ant (specifically, the propodeum), and a long hair (or seta) in the middle of the clypeus (just above the jaws). Workers have ten-segmented antennae, the last two segments of which form a distinct club. A characteristic seen only among the two species of imported fire ant is the median tooth centered along the front edge of the clypeus, which is flanked by two lateral teeth. The final distinctions used to identify S. richteri are its black or dark brown coloration from which its name derives and a characteristic yellow spot on its gaster.

Caste differentiation among BIFA is relatively easy. Males are winged, stingless, and larger than the females (with exception of the queen). Before having mated, unfertilized (virgin) queens are winged, and their gaster (abdominal area) is much larger than males or workers. After mating, fertilized queens quickly lose their wings, but their size and swollen gaster continues to make them quite distinct. Sterile females are dimorphic, with majors being distinctly larger than minors (although as colonies grow older sizes vary more).

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; polymorphic ; venomous

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes shaped differently

  • Arnett, Jr., R. 1985. American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company Inc..
  • Campbell, N., J. Reece, L. Mitchell. 1999. Biology. Menlo Park, CA: Benjamin/Cummings.
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Diagnostic Description

Diagnosis of worker among Antkey species. Worker caste polymorphic. Total length > 2 mm. Head ovoid (minors) to rectangular (majors). Antenna 10-segmented. Antennal club 2-segmented. Antennal scapes not conspicuously short; easily extended beyond eye level. Antennal insertions at least partly covered by frontal lobes; not surrounded by a raised sharp-edged ridge. Antennal scrobe lacking. Posterolateral corners of head unarmed, without spines. Eyes medium to large (greater than 5 facets); distinctly less than half length."" class=""lexicon-term"">head length. Frontal lobes do not obscure face outline between mandible and eye. Anterior margin of clypeus with two lateral teeth and one median tooth. Mandibles triangular. Pronotal spines absent. Propodeum lacking spines or teeth. Petiole with peduncle; "" class=""lexicon-term"">subpetiolar process not developed as a flange or lobe. Color shiny brownish black.


Solenopsis richteri is easily separated from S. papuana by the polymorphic worker caste, the greater size (TL > 2.0 mm), and by the larger eye (> 5 facets). It is most reliably separated from S. geminata and S. xyloni by the presence of a median tooth between the two lateral teeth on the anterior margin of the clypeus. This character is often difficult to see, and it is best to examine a moderate sample of specimens of different sizes before a confident determination can be made. The species is further distinguished from the North American native, S. xyloni, by the lack of a well-developed subpetiolar process that forms a flange or lobe. Solenopsis richteri hybridizes with S. invicta. The two species are best distinguished by color (S. richteri is brownish black and S. invicta is reddish brown), but S. invicta x richteri is intermediate. 

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Taxonomic Treatment

Wild, A. L., 2007:
  Literature records: Ñeembucú (Fowler 1981).
 
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Literature records: Ñeembucú (Fowler 1981).

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Wild, A. L.

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Look Alikes

Solenopsis invicta

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Ecology

Habitat

Solenopsis richteri prefers open area grasslands, particularly pastures and lawns. The pampas of Argentina was its original preferred habitat. Young BIFA colonies prefer moister areas in which to build their mounds, whereas more mature colonies tend to emigrate to drier soil as they grow larger. Most BIFA colonies are found at lower elevations, although these ants are quite adaptable. In South America, BIFA colonies are found in seasonally marshy areas as well as at elevations as high as 12,000 feet.

Range elevation: sea level to 3200 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; chaparral

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

The optimal foraging conditions for the BIFA are air temperature between 70 and 85 degrees and ground temperature of less than 95 degrees. BIFA also divide foraging duties. For instance, some foragers locate and disable food while others carry the booty back to the mound. BIFA eat primarily other insects, and they also feed upon oily seeds. Some of the prey insects of S. richteri are not killed but instead kept in the mound and "milked" for their fluids.

Foods eaten: long-horned grasshoppers, cucumber beetles, various ground beetles, spittle bugs various spiders, stink bugs, house flies, mealybugs, various insect larvae and oily seeds.

Animal Foods: body fluids; insects

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats body fluids, Insectivore )

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Solenopsis richteri acts to control the insect populations throughout its range. In turn, it is also a source of food for many insects, accounting for up to 75% of the diet of some organisms.

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Predation

The most effective anti-predator adaptation of S. richteri is its venomous sting. The poisonous compounds in its venom are very painful and have been demonstrated to be particularly deadly to termites. Also, the aggression and sheer numbers of a fire ant swarm have a large deterrant affect.

Known Predators:

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

BIFA share the complicated system of communication utilized by most ant species. They communicate primarily through pheromones, releasing them to communicate information and particularly to mark trails. The most common use of these trails is to lead the way back to a food source found by a foraging worker. BIFA scouts also commonly use trails to mark the path to competing mounds. Nearby mounds of other species will be overrun and the colony destroyed, while nearby colonies of other BIFA are often raided for larvae.

Much of BIFA communication is ritualized or instinctual. Ritualized tapping of the antennae sends signals through a substrate while antennae are also used to communicate a variety of signals. Touching certain areas (usually with forelimbs) is also used, primarily to initiate the regurgitation of food. This is probably instinctual, as human hair has been demonstrated to produce the same effect when it is used as a probe.

BIFA also have a very high pitched squeal, barely audible to the human ear, that is used as a distress call.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks ; vibrations

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; vibrations ; chemical

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Life Cycle

Development

Eggs hatch after after five to eight days, with the variance in time due mainly to the caste and sex of the egg. There are four larval stages, or instars, followed by the pupal and then adult stages.

After hatching, workers apply small amounts of venom to the larvae to prevent infection. Between each instar the larvae, shed their skins with the help of workers. Each brood forms a ball, held together by a sticky coating and the hairs that develop progressively with each stage.

When a larva enters the pupal stage, it is moved into storage with other pupae. The pupae are moved about the nest regularly to the nest chambers with the optimal humidity for development. During the pupal stage, tissues reorganize themselves into the adult form. Finally, the ant ecloses (emerges from the pupal skin) with the help of workers. The shed skin is eaten by nestmates. Young adults are called callows and are soft and pale, becoming darker and harder within a couple of days.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

  • Grzimek, B. 1972. Grzimek's Animal Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company Inc..
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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Longevity in S. richteri is dependent upon caste. Males can be quite long-lived relative to workers, but will die within days of leaving the mound and mating. Workers live a little over half a year in the wild, and live anywhere from 10 to 70 weeks in laboritories. Successful queens live approximately five years in the wild, and 6 to 7 years in captivity.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
5 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
7 years.

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Reproduction

As with many other ants, BIFA reproduction occurs during a "nuptial flight." Virgin queens emerge from the mound by the hundreds along with males and copulation takes place in the air. Favorable conditions to trigger the onset of a nuptial flight are air temperature of between 75 and 90 degrees, ground temperature above 65 degrees, and high humidity. New nest mounds tend to form downwind of the parent mound, indicating that wind may be an important factor as well. Nuptial flights usually occur in the afternoon. In the United States, they occur in every month except January. In South America, they usually occur between January and April.

Colonies mature in two years. In the United States, egg production is seasonal, beginning in March. Sexual broods are laid before worker broods. Egg production ends with the onset of winter. In South America, egg production peaks in the summer (January to March) and in the winter (July to September). Eggs laid in the summer only develop into workers, whereas all castes develop in the winter.

Breeding season: In their native South America, these animals have nuptual flights between January and April, but in North America, breeding may be more frequent.

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; seasonal breeding ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous ; sperm-storing ; delayed fertilization

  • Grzimek, B. 1972. Grzimek's Animal Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company Inc..
  • Holldobler, B., E. Wilson. 1990. The Ants. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Holldobler, B., E. Wilson. 1994. Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Taber, S. 2000. Fire Ants. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Solenopsis richteri

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Solenopsis richteri

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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There are no conservation efforts on behalf of S. richteri. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also stopped all efforts towards the eradication of imported fire ants, deeming them virtually impossible.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Solenopsis richteri is considered a pest and a nuisance in the United States. In particular, it is responsible for significant amounts of damage done to farm machinery. It is also a nuisance because of its preference to build mounds on lawns and because this connection with humans often leads to painful stings. In Brazil, these ants are a pest to the potato crop, eating the tubers and branches. Interestingly, it is considered to be a benign resident in Argentina, neither a pest nor a benefit.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings, venomous ); crop pest; household pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Solenopsis richteri has relatively little positive impact in the United States. What beneficial effects it did have in controlling crop, livestock, and other pests has largely been usurped by Red Imported Fire Ants. In South America, S. richteri is not considered to be beneficial to humans.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Wikipedia

Black imported fire ant

The black imported fire ant (Solenopsis richteri), or simply BIFA, is a species of ant in the genus Solenopsis (fire ants). It was long thought to either be a subspecies or color variation of Solenopsis invicta (red imported fire ant; RIFA), but is now recognized as its own species with a demonstratively different range and living habits. BIFA seem to be more tolerant of cold and a less dominant species than RIFA.

The species is native to South America, but has been introduced to North America. In the United States, the official assessment is that BIFA are limited to extreme northeast Mississippi, northwest Alabama and a few southern counties in Tennessee,[1] though this may reflect under-estimation of their range. As of April 2013 their range has been found as far north as the tidewater area of Virginia.

All stings of imported fire ants will produce a sterile pustule that is helpful in distinguishing them from the bite of other insects. Pustules are surrounded by reddened swelling (wheal) with the redness (erythema) extending beyond (flare).[2] The extent of reaction to imported fire ant bites is variable depending on the quantity of allergic (IgE) antibodies an individual has already formed. There may also be differences in the venom from the two species that result in more pronounced wheal and flare formation after bites from BIFA.[3][4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]


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