Experiences in Transplanting Wood Ants into Plantations for Integrated Pest Management
Keywords:Formica polyctena, forestry, fruit plantations, Christmas tree plantations, organic production, biological control
Ants can function efficiently as biocontrol agents in open field horticulture. Temperate wood ants can control forest pests, including species damaging forest regeneration plots and fruit plantations. Thus, they possess potential as biocontrol agents in open field horticulture, if they can persist in these systems. Here we present observationson activity and survival of wood ants transplanted from forests into different types of plantations. Mound fragments were transplanted into a conifer seedling plot, an organic and a conventional Christmas tree plantation, and into an organic apple plantation. Colonies survived at least one year in all types of plantations. In some cases, however, ants moved to new locations or migrated between mound fragments, leaving some inactive. Our compiled experiences suggest that this can be prevented by providing a minimum mound size, keeping a minimum spacing between mounds and incorporation of sand and scent marked wood pieces from donor colonies to imitate naturally occurring nests. We also observed that the ants preyed upon and significantly reduced the number of winter moth larvae (Operophtera brumata – a pest in apple and other fruit orchards) in two of four apple varieties. In conclusion, wood ants were tolerant to highly diferente habitat settings and will likely persist in most types of perennial horticultural systems, if managed properly. As they prey on winter moths and multiple other pest species, they are a potential new biocontrol agent for open agricultural systems.
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