Ants are significant structural and agricultural pests, generating a need for human-safe and effective insecticides for ant control. Erythritol, a sugar alcohol used in many commercial food products, reduces survival in diverse insect taxa including fruit flies, termites, and mosquitos. Erythritol also decreases longevity in red imported fire ants; however, its effects on other ant species and its ability to be transferred to naïve colony members at toxic doses have not been explored. Here, we show that erythritol decreases survival in Tetramorium immigrans Santschi (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in a concentration-dependent manner. Access to ad-libitum water reduced the toxic effects of erythritol, but worker mortality was still increased over controls with ad-lib water. Foraging T. immigrans workers transferred erythritol at lethal levels to nest mates that had not directly ingested erythritol. Similar patterns of mortality following erythritol ingestion were observed in Formica glacialis Wheeler (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), Camponotus subarbatus Emery (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), and Camponotus chromaiodes Bolton (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). These findings suggest that erythritol may be a highly effective insecticide for several genera of ants. Erythritol's potential effectiveness in social insect control is augmented by its spread at lethal levels through ant colonies via social transfer (trophallaxis) between workers.
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Vol. 113 • No. 3