Delivery System Using Sodium Alginate Virus Loaded Pellets to Red Imported Fire Ants (Solenopsis Invicta, Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

Danielle M. Tufts, Kyle Spencer, Wayne B. Hunter, Blake Bextine

Abstract


Microencapsulation as a delivery mechanism of SINV-1 and other molecules such as dsRNA, offers an approach to Solenopsis invicta Buren management that is target specific and fits current approaches to baiting ants with toxins and/or RNA-interference. The delivery method presented here targets ground dwelling, foraging ants with an ant-infecting virus which is specific to the genus, Solenopsis. Endemic ant-infecting viruses, like S. invicta viruses (SINV-1, SINV-2, and SINV-3) are being evaluated for efficacy in S. invicta population suppression. In this study, SINV-1 (TX5 strain) was extracted from S. invicta colonies and microencapsulated in sodium alginate pellets. Pellets containing extracted whole virions were offered to confirmed non-infected S. invicta colonies. Colonies were sampled every 5 d and tested by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for presence of viral RNA. The longevity of control and viral pellets were also evaluated. Within 30 d, post-feeding of virus, 35% of S. invicta colonies acquired SINV-1 infection (P = 0.03). Thus, microencapsulation as a delivery mechanism was successful to deliver SINV-1 to S. invicta colonies. Future incorporation of this economically affordable method can be implemented to deliver biological agents for specific ant species and to augment current approaches that bait ants. While a virus was used to demonstrate delivery, an adequate and affordable virus production system still needs to be developed before a viral strategy can be adopted as a tool for biological control of fire ants.

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