Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 367–373

Effect of soil humidity on the survival of Solenopsis invicta Buren workers

Research Article


The effect of soil humidity on the survival of Solenopsis invicta (Buren) workers was evaluated in this study. The study showed that the relative soil water (RSW) content inside the mound contained less variation than the surrounding soil. At a depth of 5 cm underground, the RSW was 7.6% in the mound, while it was 29% in the surrounding soil. At a depth of 20 cm underground, the RSW was 99% in the surrounding soil, while in the mound, the RSW did not reach 98% until it was 45-cm deep. The soil humidity affected the survival rate of S. invicta. For workers, the survival rate decreased when they were exposed to a higher RSW. The spring population had a higher tolerance to a high RSW than the autumn population, while the drought tolerance was the opposite. In extreme RSW, the longer that S. invicta was exposed, the lower their survival rate. The drought tolerance of the fire ant workers could be improved if they were pre-exposed to a low non-lethal RSW for a short period of time. The water content of the workers changed after acclimation to humidity. After a low RSW treatment, the water content of the acclimated workers was higher than the control workers. This suggests that this species is able to maintain a certain water content after acclimation, and that the water content of workers increases in accordance with the RSW.


Solenopsis invicta Soil humidity Adaptation 


  1. Anonymous 1972. Ecological range for the imported fire ant–based on plant hardiness. Coop. Econ. Insect Report 22: centerfold mapGoogle Scholar
  2. Anonymous 1999. Fire ant invades southern California. California Agricult. 53: 5Google Scholar
  3. Beament J.W.L. 1945. The cuticular lipoids of insects. J. Exp. Biol. 21: 115–131Google Scholar
  4. Bhatkar A.P. 1990. Reproductive strategies of the fire ant. In: Applied Myrmecology: A World Perspective (R.K. Vander Meer, K. Jaffe and A. Cedeno, Eds), Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado. pp 138–139Google Scholar
  5. Brian M.V. 1963. Studies of caste differentiation in Myrmica rubra L. Insect. Soc. 10: 91–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Braulick L.S., Cokendolpher J.C. and Morrison W.P. 1988. Effect of acute exposure to relative humidity and temperature on four species of fire ants (Solenopsis: Formicidae: Hymenoptera). Texas J. Science 40: 331–340Google Scholar
  7. Chen C., Denlinger D.L. and Lee R.E. 1987. Cold-shock injury and rapid cold hardening in the flesh fly Sarcophaga crassipalpis. Physiol. Zool. 60: 297–304Google Scholar
  8. Cokendolpher J.C. and Francke O.F. 1985. Temperature preferences of four species of fire ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Solenopsis). Psyche 92: 91–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Czajka M.C. and Lee R.E. 1990. A rapid cold-hardening response protecting against cold shock injury in Drosophila melanogaster. J. Exp. Biol. 147: 245–254Google Scholar
  10. Du Y.Z., Gu J., Guo J.B., Dai L., Ju R.T. and Hu X.N. 2007. Study on the potential distribution area of invasive alien pest red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren in China. Scientia Agricult. Sin. 40: 99–106Google Scholar
  11. Frank W.A. 1988. Report of limited establishment of redimported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren in Arizona. Southwest Entomol. 13: 307–308Google Scholar
  12. Ghilarov M. 1958. Adaptations of insects to soil dwelling. XVth Int. Congr. Zool., London, pp 534–557Google Scholar
  13. Gibbs A.G., Chippindale A.K. and Rose M.R. 1997. Physiological mechanisms of evolved desiccation resistance in Drosophila melanogaster. J. Exp. Biol. 200: 1821–1832PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Gibbs A.G. 1998. Water-proofing properties of cuticular lipids. Am. Zool. 38: 471–482Google Scholar
  15. Giuliano W.M. and Lutz R.S. 1993. Quail and rain: what’s the relationship? Proc. Natl Bobwhite Quail Symp. 3: 64–68Google Scholar
  16. Hadley N. 1994. Water Relations of Terrestrial Arthropods, 1st ed. Academic Press, San Diego, CA. 356 ppGoogle Scholar
  17. Hoffmann A. 1990. Acclimation for desiccation resistance in Drosophila melanogaster and the association between acclimation responses and genetic variation. J. Insect Physiol. 36: 885–891CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hölldobler B. and Wilson E.O. 1990. The Ants. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 732 ppGoogle Scholar
  19. Kelty J.D. and Lee R.E. 1999. Inuction of rapid cold hardening by cooling at ecologically relevant rates in Drosophila melanogaster. J. Insect Physiol. 45: 719–762CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Kiel W.H.J. 1976. Bobwhite quail population characteristics and management implications in south Texas. Trans. North American Wildlife Conf. 41: 407–420Google Scholar
  21. Kneitz G. 1964. Saisonales Trageverhalten bei Formica polyctena Foerst. (Formicidae, Gen. Formica). Insect. Soc. 11: 105–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Korzukhin M.D., Porter S.D., Thompson L.C. and Wiley S. 2001. Modeling temperature-dependent range limits for the fire ant Solenopsis invicta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the United States. Envir. Entomol. 30: 645–655Google Scholar
  23. Krebs R.A. and Loeschcke V. 1994. Costs and benefits of activation of the heat-shock protein response in Drosophila melanogaster. Funct. Ecol. 8: 730–737CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lehmann V.W. 1953. Bobwhite population fluctuations and vitamin A. Trans. North American Wildlife Conf. 18: 199–246Google Scholar
  25. Levings S.C. 1983. Seasonal, annual, and among-site variation in the ground ant community of a deciduous tropical forest: some causes of patchy distributions. Ecol. Mon. 53: 435–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. MacKay W.P. and Fagerlund R. 1997. Range expansion of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), into New Mexico and extreme western Texas. Proc. Entomol. Soc. Washington 99: 757–758Google Scholar
  27. Morrison L.W., Porter S.D., Daniels E. and Korzukhin M.D. 2004. Potential global range expansion of the invasive fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Biol. Inv. 6: 183–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Penick C.A. and Tschinkel W.R. 2008. Thermoregulatory brood transport in the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Insect. Soc. 55: 176–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Phillips S.A., Jusino-Atresino R. and Thorvilson H.G. 1996. Desiccation resistance in populations of the red imported fire ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Envir. Entomol. 25: 460–464Google Scholar
  30. Pimm S.L. and Bartell D.P. 1980. Statistical model for predicting range expansion of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, in Texas. Envir. Entomol. 9: 653–658Google Scholar
  31. Porter S.D. 1988. Impact of temperature on colony growth and developmental rates of the ant, Solenopsis invicta. J. Insect Physiol. 34: 1127–1133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Porter S.D. 1992. Frequency and distribution of polygyne fire ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Florida. Florida Entomol. 75: 248–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Porter S.D. and Tschinkel W.R. 1987. Foraging in Solenopsis invicta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): effects of weather and season. Envir. Entomol. 16: 802–808Google Scholar
  34. Porter S.D. and Tschinkel W.R. 1993. Fire ant thermal preferences: Behavioral control of growth and metabolism. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 32: 321–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Potts L.R., Francke O.F. and Cokendolpher J.C. 1984. Humidity preferences of four species of fire ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Solenopsis). Insect. Soc. 31: 335–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Roces F. and Nuñez J.A. 1989. Brood translocation and circadian variation of temperature preference in the ant Camponotus mus. Oecologia 81: 33–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Scherba G. 1959. Moisture regulation in mound nests of the ant, Formica ulkei Emery. Amer. Midland Nat. 61: 499–507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Shannon S.J., Roberto M.P., Karen M.V. and Bonnie H.O. 2002. Survival of imported fire ant species subjected to freezing and near-freezing temperatures. Envir. Entomol. 31: 127–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Smith A., Hölldobler B. and Liebig J. 2009. Cuticular hydrocarbons reliably identify cheaters and allow enforcement of altruism in a social insect. Curr. Biol. 19: 78–81CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Sjursen H., Bayley M. and Holmstrup M. 2001. Enhanced drought tolerance of a soil-dwelling springtail by pre-acclimation to a mild drought stress. J. Insect Physiol. 47: 1021–1027CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Taylor F. 1977. Foraging behavior of ants: experiments with two species of Myrmecine ants. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 2: 147–167Google Scholar
  42. Toolson E.C., White T.R. and Glaunsinger W.S. 1979. Electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy of spin-labelled cuticle of Centruroides sculpturatus (Scorpiones: Buthidae): correlation with thermal effects on cuticular permeability. J. Insect Physiol. 25: 271–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Vinson S.B. 1997. Invasion of the red imported fire ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): spread, biology, and impact. Amer. Entomol. 43: 23–39Google Scholar
  44. Walters A.C. and MacKay D.A. 2004. Comparisons of upper thermal tolerances between the invasive Argentine ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and two native Australian ant species. Annls Entomol. Soc. Amer. 97: 971–975CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wheeler G.C. and Wheeler J. 1976. Ant larvae: review and synthesis. Mem. Entomol. Soc. Washington 7: 82–83Google Scholar
  46. Xue D.Y., Li H.M., Han H.X. and Zhang R.Z. 2005. A prediction of potential distribution area of Solenopsis invicta in China. Entomol. Knowl. 42: 57–60Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel/Switzerland 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Red Imported Fire Ant Research Centre and Entomology DepartmentSouth China Agricultural UniversityGuangzhouChina

Personalised recommendations