Hello: I hope this is the correct forum for this, if not please direct me.
I am neither a biologist nor a scientist. My knowledge of fungi is virtually nil, however I am a farly quick study. That is my up front disclaimer.
I have a serious infestation of leaf cutter ants. These ants can destroy a vegetable garden in only a couple of nights. I am almost at the point of planting for the spring.
I have tried numerous control techniques, mostly without measurable success. I am trying to avoid chemicals. The best success I have had so far, and it is limited, is to use high pressure water to penetrate down into the colony and disrupt their tunnels and chambers, hoping to contaminate their fungus chambers and eventually starve them out.
The problem with that approach is the colony is so large and deep that I can not get to enough of the fungus farms to take them over the critical point. The water injection does work nearly 100% on small colonies.
I recently read that Escovopsis spores have a fatal effect on the ant's fungus farms. This strikes me as a potentially reasonable control measure.
I have some questions though, that are not answered in the available literature. Please help.
1. If I did use Escovopsis spores on the colony, is there a chance that this would create an enviornmental problem that would make the use unreasonable? Killer Bees kind of thing? I don't want to unleash the fungus that eats the world.
2. Where can I find a basic treatise on the propagation of spores, as in how to do it myself at home?
3. Is there a supply house that can provide the Escovopsis spores and the necessary basic equipment to propagate the spores?
I would appreciate any help along these lines. By the way, if anyone is interested in the outcome, let me know what information you want, and how to collect it; and I will share it with you as it is available.
Since this is a hemisphere wide agricultural problem, there is potential here for doing some small good for world food supply.
Thank you very much for any and all help and suggestions. ADDED on March 12 - Just read that the attine's collect the Escovopsis in an internal chamber in their body, treat it with an anti-biotic to kill it, pelletize it and discard the pellets. The report states that the pellets rarely contain viable Escovopsis - which could mean that sometimes the pellets do carry vialbe Escovopsis. This could be an outstanding way of starting a culture in the field. Imagine if a simple kit was available that could be used under primitive conditions to collect the pellets (assuming these are the pellets I see the ants carrying to the surface and discarding) and culturing the Escovopsis from them, then using it to destroy the colony. This could be distributed to 3rd world farmers. Here is a brief excerpt from the report, which can be found at: Oops, I can't post a URL yet, not until I have 5 posts. Anyone interested can email me and I will send the link.
The infrabuccal pocket, a filtering structure within |
the oral cavity of ants, is a key component in leafcutter
hygienic behaviours (Quinlan & Cherrett
1978). Detritus and potentially hazardous debris that
ants gather while cleaning themselves, the nest area,
or the fungus garden is accumulated in the pocket
(Bailey 1920). Once full, the compressed material is
expelled from the pocket as a pellet.