While in Austin at the Entomological Society of America meetings, I had the chance to tour The University of Texas at Austin’s Brackenridge Field Laboratory. Located on 82 acres of land bordering the Colorado River, the station supports studies in biodiversity, ecosystem change and natural history. A major focus of research at the station involves efforts to establish biological control agents for control of imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) using entomopathogens and parasitoids (e.g. phorid flies in the genus Pseudacteon). This research relies on maintaining cultures of fire ants to support rearing of the phorid fly. While time was limited and I did not have much opportunity to photograph either the ant or the fly, I did manage to quickly sneak in a shot or two of some winged reproductives that were removed from the teaming formicid mass in a rearing tray and placed on a table top for all to see (and when I say “a shot or two” I mean it. I had the chance only for one shot of the female and two of the male as they crawled crazily about and the tour leader quickly tried to move us on). I’m sure Alex Wild has all stages/forms of this species covered in spades, but the sexually dimorphic winged reproductives were new for me, and perhaps some readers of this blog as well.
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013