Formica perpilosa Wheeler is a serious economic ant pest on table grapes grown in the Coachella Valley, California, and Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. This ant aggressively tends hemipteran pests, such as the vine mealybug, Planococcus ficus Signoret, and disrupts natural control by predators and parasitoids. Efforts are underway to develop control measures against F. perpilosa using granular bait, yet little is known about the colony life cycle or foraging characteristics of this ant. We studied the seasonal activity, mating behavior, and density and spatial characteristics of F. perpilosa nests in vineyards as well as its foraging and recruitment behavior. Nests were active from early February to mid-October. Mating flights occurred in early August and again in the first two weeks of September and new colonies were founded by a single queen. F. perpilosa rapidly colonized a new, non-infested vineyard with ca. 9% of the vines infested after 1.5 y. In September the proportions of infested vines at 5, 20, and 30 y old vineyards were 18.6, 21.8, and 16.2%, respectively. This ant is seasonally polydomous and nest density increased ca. two-fold at the 5 and 20-year old vineyards between February and September. Foraging and recruitment primarily occurred up to 6.39 m from a home nest. The implications of these studies for controlling F. perpilosa using low-toxic bait delivery systems are discussed.
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Vol. 24 • No. 3