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Escovopsis spores


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#1 susanjohnyba

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 03:51 AM

Hello: I hope this is the correct forum for this, if not please direct me.

I am neither a biologist nor a scientist. My knowledge of fungi is virtually nil, however I am a farly quick study. That is my up front disclaimer.

I have a serious infestation of leaf cutter ants. These ants can destroy a vegetable garden in only a couple of nights. I am almost at the point of planting for the spring.

I have tried numerous control techniques, mostly without measurable success. I am trying to avoid chemicals. The best success I have had so far, and it is limited, is to use high pressure water to penetrate down into the colony and disrupt their tunnels and chambers, hoping to contaminate their fungus chambers and eventually starve them out.

The problem with that approach is the colony is so large and deep that I can not get to enough of the fungus farms to take them over the critical point. The water injection does work nearly 100% on small colonies.

I recently read that Escovopsis spores have a fatal effect on the ant's fungus farms. This strikes me as a potentially reasonable control measure.

I have some questions though, that are not answered in the available literature. Please help.

1. If I did use Escovopsis spores on the colony, is there a chance that this would create an enviornmental problem that would make the use unreasonable? Killer Bees kind of thing? I don't want to unleash the fungus that eats the world.

2. Where can I find a basic treatise on the propagation of spores, as in how to do it myself at home?

3. Is there a supply house that can provide the Escovopsis spores and the necessary basic equipment to propagate the spores?

I would appreciate any help along these lines. By the way, if anyone is interested in the outcome, let me know what information you want, and how to collect it; and I will share it with you as it is available.

Since this is a hemisphere wide agricultural problem, there is potential here for doing some small good for world food supply.

Thank you very much for any and all help and suggestions.

ADDED on March 12 - Just read that the attine's collect the Escovopsis in an internal chamber in their body, treat it with an anti-biotic to kill it, pelletize it and discard the pellets. The report states that the pellets rarely contain viable Escovopsis - which could mean that sometimes the pellets do carry vialbe Escovopsis. This could be an outstanding way of starting a culture in the field. Imagine if a simple kit was available that could be used under primitive conditions to collect the pellets (assuming these are the pellets I see the ants carrying to the surface and discarding) and culturing the Escovopsis from them, then using it to destroy the colony. This could be distributed to 3rd world farmers. Here is a brief excerpt from the report, which can be found at: Oops, I can't post a URL yet, not until I have 5 posts. Anyone interested can email me and I will send the link.

#2 bob1

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Posted 14 June 2009 - 05:14 PM

Hmmm interesting problem. Biological controls are nearly always limited in their efficacy, though from a brief research it seems that the Escovopsis is pretty effective. As far as I can tell, you won't unleash a world killing fungus if you cultivate it, though you might have some effect on the local ant populations. It seems that the Escovopsis parasites the usual fungi of the ant fungus gardens, you should be able to get it from their fungus gardens, but it will take an experienced mycologist to tell you if you have the right fungus, as many of them look very similar.

There are a few places that supply stocks of various organisms, the ATCC (atcc.org) is one of the more famous. Typically you will find that these sorts of places supply only to the scientific world such as universities and research organisations, for the reason that biosecurity is quite important internationally. Your best bet would be to approach a local university and see if they have any. Culture shouldn't be too difficult, just on agar plates, however trying these sorts of things is quite difficult with no training, so I wouldn't recommend it as you don't want to expose yourself to something that may damage your health - a very common hazard in most biological labs.

#3 Brett in AZ

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 09:14 AM

Hmmm interesting problem. Biological controls are nearly always limited in their efficacy, though from a brief research it seems that the Escovopsis is pretty effective. As far as I can tell, you won't unleash a world killing fungus if you cultivate it, though you might have some effect on the local ant populations. It seems that the Escovopsis parasites the usual fungi of the ant fungus gardens, you should be able to get it from their fungus gardens, but it will take an experienced mycologist to tell you if you have the right fungus, as many of them look very similar.

There are a few places that supply stocks of various organisms, the ATCC (atcc.org) is one of the more famous. Typically you will find that these sorts of places supply only to the scientific world such as universities and research organisations, for the reason that biosecurity is quite important internationally. Your best bet would be to approach a local university and see if they have any. Culture shouldn't be too difficult, just on agar plates, however trying these sorts of things is quite difficult with no training, so I wouldn't recommend it as you don't want to expose yourself to something that may damage your health - a very common hazard in most biological labs.

I've been having a problem with these guys for the past two summers. I can't seem to win. My latest idea was to spray myclobutanil (aka Immunox, a systemic) on the plants in the hopes that would deter the ants. It worked for almost two weeks. Now they're back and a reapplication of Immunox didn't appear to do any good. Have the ants found a way around it already? I thought about rotating with something a little stronger, like Flint, but I'm taking a shot in the dark. I'm not a biologist and I'd like to avoid dumping hundreds of gallons of permethrin out back, or pouring gas down the hole and lighting it like one of the neighbors up the street tried.

Edited by Brett in AZ, 14 July 2010 - 09:15 AM.


#4 bob1

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Posted 15 July 2010 - 07:19 PM

How about digging a moat around the garden (or at least the valuable plants) and filling it with water with perhaps a layer of oil (maybe kerosene?) on the surface. This should deter most animal species.

#5 Brett in AZ

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Posted 16 July 2010 - 06:57 AM

How about digging a moat around the garden (or at least the valuable plants) and filling it with water with perhaps a layer of oil (maybe kerosene?) on the surface. This should deter most animal species.

I actually have a moat around each plant for watering. But as soon the water shuts off, the moat drains because of our sandy soil. I could use plastic for a liner (in a separate moat around the whole vineyard), but I'd have to fill it daily due to the evaporation at 115 F and that would use a lot of water.
I'd like to find something I could wrap around the trellis posts and plants that would block them from climbing, but I think it would have to be made of teflon or UHMW to be slick enough to work. I've tried using a sticky goo, but it quickly dries out and it's very labor-intensive to re-apply.
I have a trellis for the vines to grow on, with plastic sleeves around the base of each vine that I coated with Tanglefoot. But, I have to take the sleeves off this year because the vine trunks are getting too large, so I need to find a more permanent solution. I could coat each trunk wtih vaseline, but I'm not sure that would work. I'd like to find something that either prevents them from climbing, tastes bad, disrupts/overpowers their phermone trail, makes them sick, or attacks the fungus in their garden.
It's hard to come out every morning and find another vine stripped of its leaves.

Brett

#6 bob1

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Posted 16 July 2010 - 04:58 PM

If you have the layer of oil on the surface of the water it will stop, or at least limit, evaporation.

Actually if you know where the ants are coming from you could dig a moat around their hole(s) and do it that way... it might just work.


For wrapping around the plants- how about a conical sleeve like they use to prevent dogs/cats from licking at stitches, have the wide part pointing down and a few inches above the soil. You could probably make them out of soda bottles, it should be slippery enough, but it would pay to test it first.

#7 Brett in AZ

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Posted 19 July 2010 - 07:28 AM

If you have the layer of oil on the surface of the water it will stop, or at least limit, evaporation.

Actually if you know where the ants are coming from you could dig a moat around their hole(s) and do it that way... it might just work.


For wrapping around the plants- how about a conical sleeve like they use to prevent dogs/cats from licking at stitches, have the wide part pointing down and a few inches above the soil. You could probably make them out of soda bottles, it should be slippery enough, but it would pay to test it first.

I've been thinking along the same lines. I saw something online about a guy that made a shield out of the plastic trays you buy to put under potted plants to catch excess water. He is now selling them, they're called Tomato Shields: http://chronicle.aug...s-away-tomatoes
http://tomatoshields.com/
But, for $5 ea, I can probably make my own.

#8 bob1

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Posted 19 July 2010 - 01:50 PM

Yup, that's exactly what I was thinking of. Great minds and all...




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