Ecological Role of Red Imported Fire Ants and their Influence on Monarch Butterflies

Dr. Jeff Kopachena, professor in Biological and Environmental Sciences, was awarded $92,605 by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, for Stage two of his project, “Ecological role of Red Imported Fire Ants (Solenopsis invicta) and their influence on Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) egg and larval survival in northeast Texas.”

Stage two of the monarch research project is a follow-up from “The Pilot Project” that was conducted in 2016 and aimed primarily at determining the role that red imported fire ants play on the survivorship of spring generation monarchs in Texas.  “The Pilot Project” provided some results that seemed contradictory to initial expectations. The second phase is, therefore, more focused on quantifying the community of invertebrates that occupy the host plant and its immediate surroundings.

“Our working hypothesis is that the impact of fire ants may depend on the diversity and abundance of other prey types on and around the plant in that fire ants might not actually prefer to eat monarchs unless there is little else to eat,” said Kopachena.

This project will run through December 31, 2018.