Behavioral Response of Little Fire Ant, Wasmannia auropunctata (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), to Trail Chemicals Laid on Epiphytic Moss

  • Dong H. ChaEmail author
  • Dominick Skabeikis
  • R. Max Collignon
  • Matthew S. Siderhurst
  • Man Y. Choi
  • Robert K. Vander Meer


The little fire ant (LFA), Wasmannia auropunctata (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), is native to the neotropics, but has become one of the world’s most widespread and destructive invasive ants. In Hawaii, LFA was first discovered in 1999 on the Big Island and since then has rapidly spread to neighboring islands, causing ecological and economic damage. LFA can develop fully functional nests on the ground and arboreally, and their foraging and retrieval of food resources is facilitated by a well-developed recruitment system. LFA were found to form recruitment trails on epiphytic moss growing on macadamia nut trees. As a first step to identify LFA recruitment pheromone components, we tested the LFA worker trail-following response to naturally marked epiphytic moss trails. Significantly more LFA workers placed on a natural trail followed the trail and made 90° turns to continue following the trail compared to when they were placed on a fake trail that had no trail marking substance(s). In laboratory choice assays using hexane extracts of moss with and without LFA trail, LFA workers preferred to follow a trail drawn with a hexane extract of moss that had a recruitment trail over a trail drawn with a hexane extract of moss only. Our results confirm that LFA workers readily follow a trail marking substance(s) laid down on epiphytic moss.


Recruitment pheromone trail pheromone bait little fire ant 



We thank two anonymous reviewers for insightful comments and David Oi for consultation on initial LFA colony establishment and maintenance.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Daniel K. Inouye US Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center, USDA-ARSHiloUSA
  2. 2.Eastern Mennonite UniversityHarrisonburgUSA
  3. 3.Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory, USDA-ARSCorvallisUSA
  4. 4.Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, USDA-ARSGainesvilleUSA

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