Unusual Behavior of Polygyne Fire Ant Queens on Nuptial Flights

EPA Grant Number: U914967
Title: Unusual Behavior of Polygyne Fire Ant Queens on Nuptial Flights
Investigators: Goodisman, Michael A.D.
Institution: University of Georgia
EPA Project Officer: Michaud, Jayne
Project Period: January 1, 1996 through May 11, 2001
Project Amount: $102,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1996) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Biology/Life Sciences , Fellowship - Entomology


The objective of this research project is to investigate the unusual behavior of fire ant queens (Solenopsis invicta) on their nuptial flights.


We captured large numbers of alate (winged) queens flying at low altitudes in dense swarms that were almost devoid of males. We assayed the genotypes of these alates at the Gp-9 locus, which exhibits strong genotype frequency differences between monogyne (single-queen) and polygyne (multiple-queen) populations. It was determined that almost all of the low-flying queens originated from polygyne colonies. Comparisons of mtDNA hyplotype distributions of these queens to those of alates leaving polygyne nests suggested that the flying queens had not dispersed far. In addition, the proportion of flying queens that were mated did not differ significantly from the proportion of reproductive queens that were mated within the same sites; thus, the flight behavior appears to occur subsequent to mating. We suggest that the flying queens are sampling the local environment to select a suitable landing site, which would contain established polygyne nests for adopting the queens as new reproductives.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, Solenopsis invicta, polygyne, fire ants, monogyne, social insects.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1996
  • 1997
  • 1998
  • 1999
  • 2000
  • Final