Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Mitigating the allergic effects of fire ant envenomation with biologically based population reduction

Porter, Sanford D.; Oi, David H.; Valles, Steven M.; Meer, Robert K. Vander

Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology: August 2013 - Volume 13 - Issue 4 - p 372–378
doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e3283624544
ANAPHYLAXIS AND INSECT ALLERGY: Edited by Theodore Freeman and Ralf Heine

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.

Recent findings 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.

Summary 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.

United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, Gainesville, Florida, USA

Correspondence to Robert K. Vander Meer, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Gainesville, FL 32608, USA. Tel: +1 352 374 5855; fax: +1 352 374 5818; e-mail:

Copyright © 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.