Phoretic Arthropods of the Red Imported Fire Ant in Central Louisiana.
More than 4,665 phoretic arthropods comprising29species were collected from alates of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis inoicta Buren, preparing to fly from nests in Pineville, LA. A wide variety of taxonomic groups were represented, including two insect and 17 mite families. Most arthropods fell into two classes: 1) those that may be truly phoretic with more than four specimens collected (13 species) and 2) those seeming to be accidentally phoreticwithone to three specimens collected (16 species). The latter group may be the result of gathering "accidental" mites from adjacent sources, suchas grass, soil, tree bark; thus, practically any very small arthropod may use phoresy as a dispersal mechanism. The arthropod with perhapsthe highest total numbers was Cijphodems similis Folsom, a wingless insect, and the only known Collembola phoreticspecies. Eight new species of mites found in this study were recently described, with several other species future candidates for descriptions. Results indicate the more common species may actively persist in nests for the entire year. At least 11 species from six families may feed on fungi within nests.These and common associates from other families cany hyperphoretic spores offungi thatlive inside fire ant nests. All three ofthe laelapid associates may be important predators or parasitoids of individuals within the nests. The collembolan is possibly a general feeder, and Hisliostoma spp. are filter feeders that consume microorganisms. S. invicta is native to Argentina, and we speculate that some of the common mites associated with this ant species also may have originated in Argentina.