Purpose of review
To describe the current efforts to use biological control agents to reduce fire ant population levels, thus ultimately reducing the number of human sting and allergic reaction incidents.
Climate change and worldwide fire ant expansion will increase the frequency of human encounters and allergenic events, putting additional pressure on the public health sector. Six species of fire ant decapitating flies are now established in the United States. The microsporidium Kneallhazia solenopsae is well established and new fire ant hosts have been identified. The fire ant virus Solenopsis invicta virus 3 shows good potential for use as an environmentally friendly biopesticide because of its virulence and host specificity.
During separate founding events in the United States, Australia, mainland China, and Taiwan, fire ants native to South America escaped their native pathogens and parasites. Consequently, fire ant populations in these introduced regions pose a serious public health threat to the human populations by envenomation and subsequent allergic reactions. Specific, self-sustaining biological control agents have been discovered, studied, and released into fire ant populations in the United States in an effort to re-establish an ecological/competitive balance, resulting in reduced fire ant densities and human exposure.