Invasive interactions of Monomorium minimum (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and Solenopsis invicta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) infected with Thelohania solenopsae (Microsporida: Thelohaniidae)
Keck, Molly Elizabeth
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Thelohania solenopsae Knell, Alan, and Hazard is an internal microsporidian that parasitizes the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren. This experiment studied the invasive interactions between the native United States ant, Monomorium minimum (Buckley), and S. invicta colonies infected with T. solenopsae and S. invicta colonies free of parasites. This study utilized S. invicta colonies of 100, 300, 600, 800, and 1000 workers to determine the ability of 1000 M. minimum workers to invade each S. invicta colony size. There was a significant difference in the time for M. minimum to invade S. invicta when comparing S. invicta colonies of 1000 workers infected with T. solenopsae to S. invicta colonies that were uninfected. It was also determined that there was a significant difference in the time for M. minimum to invade smaller uninfected S. invicta colonies as opposed to larger uninfected S. invicta colonies. There was no significant difference in the ability of M. minimum to invade smaller S. invicta colonies infected with T. solenopsae as opposed to larger infected S. invicta colonies. It was therefore concluded that S. invicta colonies infected with T. solenopsae were not able to defend their colony or prevent competing ants from invading as well as uninfected S. invicta colonies. This study also demonstrated that M. minimum is a significantly more invasive species when compared to S. invicta, invading S. invicta territories in every situation and doing so in a significantly shorter period of time than S. invicta colonies invaded M. minimum colonies.