Ants as biological control agents in agricultural cropping systems

In: Terrestrial Arthropod Reviews
Frank Drummond
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Beth Choate
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Ants positively impact agricultural systems by rapidly consuming large numbers of pest insects, disturbing pests during feeding and oviposition, and increasing soil quality and nutrients. The ability of ants to control pest species has been recognized since the year 300 A.D. and farmers continue to conserve and promote ant populations in agricultural systems worldwide. Naturally occurring ant species in milpas, mango, citrus, coconut, cashews, and cotton control many pest insects. Through judicious insecticide application and changes in management practices such as tillage, and other manipulations of vegetation and crop structure, beneficial ant populations are conserved in a variety of agroecosystems. The first recorded example of biological control was the manipulation of ants throughout citrus orchards in Asia. Augmentation continues in citrus, and methods of ant introduction have been developed in Malaysian and Indonesian cocoa plantations, as well as to control sweet potato and banana weevils in Cuba. Ant species have been formally incorporated into other integrated pest management programs for cashew in Australia, cocoa in Papua New Guinea, and mango in Australia and Vietnam. With efforts to reduce chemical pesticide input in agricultural systems, research evaluating the ability of generalist ant species to control pest insects must continue.

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