HOUSEHOLD AND STRUCTURAL INSECTS Fire Ant-Detecting Canines: A Complementary Method in Detecting Red Imported Fire Ants HUI-MIN LIN,1,2 WEI-LIEN CHI,2,3 CHUNG-CHI LIN,2,4 YU-CHING TSENG,1 WANG-TING CHEN,1 YU-LING KUNG,1 YI-YANG LIEN,5,6 AND YANG-YUAN CHEN1,7 J. Econ. Entomol. 104(1): 225Ð231 (2011); DOI: 10.1603/EC10298 ABSTRACT In this investigation, detection dogs are trained and used in identifying red imported Þre ants, Solenopsis invicta Buren, and their nests. The methodology could assist in reducing the frequency and scope of chemical treatments for red imported Þre ant management and thus reduce labor costs and chemical use as well as improve control and quarantine efÞciency. Three dogs previously trained for customs quarantine were retrained to detect the scents of red imported Þre ants. After passing tests involving different numbers of live red imported Þre ants and three other ant speciesÑCrematogaster rogenhoferi Mayr, Paratrechina longicornis Latreille, and Pheidole megacephala F.Ñplaced in containers, a joint Þeld survey for red imported Þre ant nests by detection dogs and bait traps was conducted to demonstrate their use as a supplement to conventional detection methods. The most signiÞcant Þndings in this report are 1) with 10 or more red imported Þre ants in scent containers, the dogs had 98% chance in tracing the red imported Þre ant. Upon the introduction of other ant species, the dogs still achieved on average, a 93% correct red imported Þre ant indication rate. Moreover, the dogs demonstrated great competence in pinpointing emerging and smaller red im- ported Þre ant nests in red imported Þre ant-infested areas that had been previously conÞrmed by bait trap stations. 2) Along with the bait trap method, we also discovered that 90% of red imported Þre ants foraged within a distance of 14 m away from their nests. The results prove detection dogs to be most effective for red imported Þre ant control in areas that have been previously treated with pesticides and therefore containing a low density of remaining red imported Þre ant nests. Further- more, as a complement to other red imported Þre ant monitoring methods, this strategy will signif- icantly increase the efÞcacy of red imported Þre ant control in cases of individual mount treatment. KEY WORDS red imported Þre ant, bait trap station, detection dog, odor recognition, Þre ant detection The red imported Þre ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, an This notorious pest is capable of consuming a large exotic species that originated from South America, quantity of food during its rapid propagation, devas- was Þrst discovered in the United States in the 1920s. tating agricultural products, threatening the well-be- Their spread to pan-PaciÞc countries such as Australia, ing of both livestock and humans, and seriously af- New Zealand, Taiwan, and China took place around fecting the native animal species in the invaded areas the early 21st century (Callcott and Collins 1996, ISSG (Adams 1986, Lofgren 1986, Allen et al. 1994). 2010). Morrison et al. (2004) also predicted, based on The application of ant baits containing toxic chem- their dynamic ecophysiological model of colony icals or insect growth regulators (IGRs) over the in- growth, the path of the red imported Þre antÕs future fested areas is one of the most widely adopted strat- invasions to parts of Asia, Africa, southern Europe, and egies in red imported Þre ant management. Dust, even to the PaciÞc island nations. granule, or liquid insecticide intended for individual mount treatments also provide a quicker option for 1 Institute of Physics, Academia Sinica, Taipei, 128 Sec. 2, Academia small-scale pest control. The red imported Þre ant Rd., Nankang, 11592, Taiwan. control support services in the United States have 2 These authors contributed equally to this work. promoted a methodology combining broad-spectrum 3 Working Dog Training School, National Pingtung University of and single-nest treatment, known as the “two-step Science and Technology, 1, Shuefu Rd., Neipu, Pingtung, 91201, Tai- wan. method.” The two-step method is presently consid- 4 Department of Biology, National Changhua University of Educa- ered as the most cost-effective and environmentally tion, 1, Jin-De Rd., Changhua City, 50007, Taiwan. friendly approach for highly red imported Þre ant- 5 Department of Veterinary Medicine, National Pingtung Univer- infested areas (Drees et al. 1998, 2000). However, sity of Science and Technology, 1, Shuefu Rd., Neipu, Pingtung, 91201, Taiwan. Drees reported that the overuse of the red imported 6 Corresponding author, e-mail: email@example.com. Þre ant pesticide “diazinon” produced massive 7 Corresponding author, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. amounts of waste and water pollutants that failed to 0022-0493/11/0225Ð0231$04.00/0 2011 Entomological Society of America 226 JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC ENTOMOLOGY Vol. 104, no. 1 pass the state and federal discharge standards in the of varying quantity; discriminate them from other ant United States (Drees 2003). Moreover, related re- species; and perform a detailed Þeld investigation of search revealed that contaminated drainage ditches emerging and small red imported Þre ant nests in a from the long-term insecticide applications might al- pretreated outdoor area, which provided the ground- ter the water quality of streams and rivers and affect work needed for the posttreatment of these individual the aquatic communities (Heckman 1981, Liess and mounts. Schulz 1999). Therefore, an accurate assessment of the level of red imported Þre ant infestation is needed Materials and Methods before more precise insecticide treatments can be applied as to reduce both the environmental and eco- Red Imported Fire Ants. Red imported Þre ants for nomical costs associated with chemical control. dog training were collected from mounds in Ching-Pu, In monitoring red imported Þre ant, visual inspec- Taoyuan County, Taiwan. This was done by placing tion, pitfall traps, and bait traps are the most common pieces of tissue paper upon the disturbed mounds, methods adopted in detecting the red imported Þre thereby allowing the collection of the ants that ag- ant and determining the amount of treatment. For gressively swarmed the paper. The red imported Þre large-scale investigations, satellite imagery, aerial im- ant populated paper was then transferred into plastic agery, or both are used to provide areawide images of zip-lock bags where the ants were subsequently anes- large red imported Þre ant mound distributions (Vogt thetized with CO2. The paralyzed ants were then 2004a,b). Yet, the nests are usually broken and lack the placed into a 50-ml capped tube with a square sieved obvious dune structures on sites where multiple red opening (1.7 by 1.7 cm) allowing the scent to perme- imported Þre ant treatments have already been ap- ate out for dog training and testing. plied. Many of these areas consist of those that are less Canines. Three neutered male beagles aged 6, 4, and tolerant to Þre ant infestation, i.e., places with signif- 2 yr old were recruited in this investigation. They will icant human activities such as playgrounds, parks, hos- be referred to as dog A, B, and C, respectively. All pital, power facilities, and nurseries. Once treated three dogs had previously received quarantine train- with pesticides and toxic traps, small amounts of nests ing to detect agricultural products in airport customs. may still remain, whereas newer nests also can emerge The dogs were then further trained for red imported after treatment. On occasions, nests also are found to Þre ant detection and used in subsequent experiments. be concealed in grass sods or outdoor electronic ap- In the red imported Þre ant training program, the dogs pliances. Such situations render the visual inspection were taught to inform their dog handler of red im- of red imported Þre ant tedious and rather useless. Bait ported Þre ant presence by sitting in front of the traps consisting of a food attractant inside a container discovered targets (passive response). are not capable of locating the actual site of the Indoor Training for Red Imported Fire Ant Odor mounds because they are usually found by foragers; Recognition and Identiﬁcation. Red imported Þre ant instead, they merely show that red imported Þre ant odor recognition training was initiated indoors as a exists somewhere within the vicinity of the baits. Thus, precursor exercise for 2 wk. The purpose of the indoor individual mound treatment cannot be applied efÞ- training was to avoid the inßuence of weather and ciently and accurately to attain rapid red imported Þre other extrinsic odors commonly encountered out- ant control in such low nest-density areas. Thus, the doors. Considering quarantine issues and sample avail- development of a practical method to rapidly locate ability, only dead red imported Þre ants were allowed red imported Þre ant colonies in previously treated in the indoor training. The indoor training consisted of areas is necessary as to avoid costs associated with two steps: 1) 50% of a set of tubes described previ- inaccurate and ineffective pesticide reapplications. ously were Þlled with 100 previously frozen red Animals rely heavily upon their delicate senses for imported Þre ants. Each set was then hidden in a metal survival, such is the case with the dogÕs olfactory sys- can Þxed on a wooden board. The handler would lead tem. Taking advantage of this trait, detection dogs are the dog to sniff the cans that contained the dead red often trained to search for objects or creatures such as imported Þre ants and verbally encourage it to sit by fruit, animal products, snakes, gypsy moths, termites, the cans; a food reward of two dog biscuit pellets was bed bugs, and other organisms by tracking their given for correct responses. Simultaneously, the dogs unique odors (Wallner and Ellis 1976, Welch 1990, also were taught not to react to or sit by empty vials Engeman et al. 1998, Brooks et al. 2003, PÞester et al. through oral instructions. 2) To prevent dogs from 2008). Dogs have the great capability of accurately reacting to odors from non-red imported Þre ants, the locating concealed targets with their nose even when dogs were further educated to refrain responding to it is wrapped in packages or enclosed in other mate- tubes with 100 frozen laboratory reared Solenopsis rials (Brooks et al. 2003). We had demonstrated pre- germinata F., Anoplolepis longipes Jerdon, Polyrhachis viously that dogs were able to pick up the scents of red dives Smith, Crematogaster rogenhoferi Mayr, or Tet- imported Þre ants (Huang et al. 2007). In Australia, off ramorium sp. 1. Before proceeding to the outdoor leash Labrador retrievers also were trained to freely training, the dogs are presented with sets of 30 tubes search for red imported Þre ant nests in the Þeld with each containing one to Þve tubes of dead red imported satisfactory results (Corcoran and McNicol 2009). Þre ants, they must consistently recognize at least 20 In this report, three beagles were successfully tubes of red imported Þre ants in total from all the sets trained on leash to detect live red imported Þre ants combined. In this case, the number of sets of 30 tubes February 2011 LIN ET AL.: FIRE ANT-DETECTING CANINES 227 presented can vary, but as long as the dog can suc- Þre ant tubes to be recognized by each dog. “Positive cessfully identify 20 tubes in total of red imported Þre indication” was deÞned as a dogÕs correct response of ants in the duration of the tests, they are allowed to go sitting by the target red imported Þre ant tubes. The onto the next training exercise. dogsÕ positive indication rates in discerning 100, 50, or Outdoor Training for Red Imported Fire Ant Odor 10 ant samples were compared with each other by the Recognition and Identiﬁcation. A set of tubes with MannÐWhitney U test by using the online statistical 100, 50, 10, or no live red imported Þre ants were analysis package VassarStats as provided by Vassar buried in a lawn with the lids revealed above the College (Lowry 2010). ground. Through the same methodology described Ability to Differentiate Red Imported Fire Ants previously, the dogs were guided to detect the live red From Other Ant Species. To determine whether the imported Þre ant-containing tubes and to ignore the dogs would be confused by unfamiliar ant scents that empty tubes. To discriminate red imported Þre ant did not occur in previous training sections, and to odors from non-red imported Þre ant odors, 100 live provide them with more chances to recognize other laboratory raised S. germinata, A. longipes, P. dives, C. non-red imported Þre ant scents, four sets of 12 metal rogenhoferi, or Tetramorium sp. 1 were collected in cans, each containing 10 Þeld-collected C. rogenhoferi, tubes and arranged randomly during the training. P. longicornis, P. megacephala, or red imported Þre ants Dogs were taught to only recognize red imported Þre were prepared as targets (red imported Þre ant) or ants and to discriminate them from the non-red im- nontargets (non-red imported Þre ant species) as de- ported Þre ant species as in the indoor training. scribed above. The metal cans were randomly selected Field Training for Red Imported Fire Ant Nest and arranged in a line three meters away from one Detection. Initially, red imported Þre ant nests varying another. Each dogÕs distinction ability was assayed in size were identiÞed in the Þeld by visual inspection. with the 48 cans once per day for a period of 10 d. As a warm up, each dog must accomplish two rounds There were, in total, 120 chances for the red imported of outdoor live red imported Þre ant training, as de- Þre ant tubes to be detected by each dog. “Indication” scribed above, for purposes of recalling their memo- was deÞned as a dog sitting in front of a can. The ries about the scents of red imported Þre ants. After Indication rates of the four species were compared recollection of their red imported Þre ant odor mem- with each other by the MannÐWhitney U test. ories, the dogs were guided to the general area to sniff Searching for Emerging and Residual Red Im- out red imported Þre ant nests and to sit by the targets. ported Fire Ant Nests in the Field Through Detection Piles of rocks, soil mounds, or nests of non-red im- Dogs Complemented by the Bait Trap Method. The ported Þre ant species were selected as negative con- investigated site is a red imported Þre ant-infested trols during the training. The dogsÕ false indications of grassland of 6,160 m2 located at the Taoyuan County non-red imported Þre ant targets were discouraged stadium in Taiwan; the stadium had been repeatedly verbally by their handlers. To avoid being attacked by treated with pesticides and IGR baits for nearly 2 yr. red imported Þre ants, dogs also were trained to sit The ground in the area were without noticeable nest away from detected nests right after snifÞng. mounds but contained previously surviving nests and Each dog received 2 h of outdoor training in addi- new emerging nests red imported Þre ant nests that tion to 2 h of Þeld training each day: one session in the are hard to detect merely by eye. This grassland is thus morning and the other session in the afternoon. The selected for a survey of residual and emerging red whole process was completed within 2 wk. Alternate imported Þre ant by detection dogs with the additional training sessions prevented dogs from being bored and help of bait trap data. distracted from the work, which could lead to lower The grassland was equally divided into seven efÞciency during training. Field training also provided smaller subareas, each 880 m2. First, for bait traps, more complicated situations that sharpened their ca- 220 uncapped tubes containing potato chips were pabilities to pick up more unpredictable scents of red distributed equally to each subarea (with 1,540 tubes imported Þre ants. Before proceeding to the assays of in total in the whole testing ground). After 2 h, the the dogsÕ ability in locating red imported Þre ants, they tubes were collected and capped for further species must consistently recognizing a combined total of 10 identiÞcation. The number and locations of the tubes tubes of red imported Þre ants out of sets of tests were then recorded. consisting of 30 tubes in an outdoor setting, just as they Second, the dog handler led the dogs to search for did before proceeding to the outdoor training. red imported Þre ant in the same area immediately Olfactory Detection of Varying Numbers of Red after the completion and removal of the baits traps. Imported Fire Ants. Fifteen tubes of red imported Þre Dogs A and B were selected for the detection process. ant were prepared as targets, in which three sets of Þve Places containing 10 red imported Þre ants were tubes each contained 100, 50, and 10 live red imported deÞned as an ant nest. Sites of detected red imported Þre ants. A further 45 empty tubes were used as non- Þre ant nests (as opposed to forage tunnels) were targets. Tubes were randomly selected and buried in further veriÞed by shovel excavation or potato chip the ground in a line, 3 m away from one another with bating, and the number of nests was recorded and their lids exposed to the air. Each dog was assayed with mapped on the same plot mentioned above. the 60 (15 red imported Þre ants 45 empty) tubes The whole procedure ended in 7 d, with the once per day, for a period of 10 d. There were, in total, 6,160-m2 area fully investigated, resulting in a com- 50 chances for each of the 10, 50, and 100 red imported plete map of the red imported Þre ant distribution as 228 JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC ENTOMOLOGY Vol. 104, no. 1 Fig. 1. Distribution of bait trapped red imported Þre ants (open circles) and dog-detected red imported Þre ant nests (closed squares) on the site of interest. The dotted line enclosed region illustrates the area that was searched using the detection dogÐbait trap method. revealed by the bait trap data combined with the nest empty tubes. In this category, the false positive indi- detection data from the dogs (Fig. 1). cation rate was 2% for each dog. We also observed For data analysis, a grid with cells of 2 by 2 m was a lack of signiÞcant difference among the dogsÕ abil- superimposed onto the map of the surveyed area to ities in detecting red imported Þre ants. Overall, the measure distances between the bait trapped red im- results indicate that all three trained detection dogs ported Þre ant and their nest sites. Concentric circles were able to detect red imported Þre ant populations centered at red imported Þre ant nests with various of 10 ants. This threshold is preferable for locating radiuses from 0 to 18 m were plotted at increments of grouped red imported Þre ants or red imported Þre ant 2 m. The larger the plotted circle area, the more nests rather than solo foragers. trapped red imported Þre ants were included within Assessment of the Dog’s Ability to Distinguish Red its radius. The percentage of trapped red imported Þre Imported Fire Ant From the Other Species. Four ant ants in each radius was then calculated from the num- species, C. rogenhoferi, P. longicornis, P. megacephala, ber of trapped red imported Þre ants in each extending and red imported Þre ant, were prepared and tested. radius over the total number of trapped red imported Ten ants from each species were presented alive to the Þre ants in the entire survey area. A logarithmic re- detection dogs as described in Materials and Methods. gression curve of the accumulation percentage of red The general correct indication rate on red imported imported Þre ants versus radii was generated to show Þre ant by the dogs was 93%. This result is signiÞ- their correlation. Results Dogs’ Olfactory Ability in Discerning Various Quantities of Red Imported Fire Ants. The experi- mental data were separated into two parts and ana- lyzed as follows: one part was the detection dogsÕ reaction toward the tubes which contained 10, 50, or 100 live red imported Þre ants. Positive indications were deÞned as when the dogs successfully located the tubes containing red imported Þre ants. All three trained detection dogs were capable of locating the red imported Þre ant tubes, with an overall positive indication rate of 98% (Fig. 2). There were no sig- Fig. 2. Positive indication rates of detection dogs for red imported red ants (RIFA) in tubes containing 10, 50, and 100 niÞcant difference between dogs and their capabilities ants. Positive indication rate is the mean percentage of pos- of detecting 10, 50, or 100 ants (P 0.05; MannÐ itive indications over total indications by dogs. The result Whitney U test). The other part was the results of the shows no signiÞcant differences among the dogsÕ capability detection dogsÕ responses to empty tubes. False pos- in discriminating the varying quantities of ants (P 0.05; itive indication is deÞned as when the dogs reacted to MannÐWhitney U test). February 2011 LIN ET AL.: FIRE ANT-DETECTING CANINES 229 ( ) y = 0.1538Ln(x) + 0.4985 R2 = 0.976 120% ( 13.6 , 90%) % of numbers of trapped RIFA in circle areas 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 Radius extended from dog detected ant nest ( m ) Fig. 4. Relationship between the dog-detected ant nests and the bait-trapped red imported Þre ants (RIFA). Open circles, percentage of trapped RIFA located in different radii extended from the nests. An arrow indicates that 90% of trapped RIFA were located within 14 m from the nests. From the experimental results, it was concluded that most of the red imported Þre ants ( 90%) were foraging within 14 m from the nests and that only 10% red imported Þre ants foraged at distances fur- ther than 14 m. The longest observed distance covered by ants foraging from the nearest nest was 26 m. Discussion Fig. 3. Percentage of indication rates for the four ant All three trained dogs demonstrated high positive species by detection dogs. Indication rate is the number of indication rates ( 98%) in detecting red imported Þre dog indicated tubes over the total tube numbers. Columns ants. Their false positive rates on the empty tubes were represent the mean SD of 10 repetitive tests. The asterisks 2%. The indication rate on C. rogenhoferi, P. longi- indicate the signiÞcant difference between the non-red im- cornis, and P. megacephala were also 4%. All these ported Þre ant species and red imported Þre ants (P 0.05; results not only suggest the great capability of dogs for MannÐWhitney U test). locating red imported Þre ant but also met the re- quired minimum acceptable detection threshold cantly higher (P 0.05; MannÐWhitney U test) than among other insect detection dogs as suggested by the 4% from the dogsÕ response to other species (Fig. Brooks et al. (2003). In his report, the termite detec- 3). The results revealed that, after training, the three tion dogs had an accuracy of 95.93% in detecting east- detection dogs had all acquired the capability to cor- ern subterranean termites, Reticulitermes ﬂavipes rectly differentiate red imported Þre ants from the (Kollar). Bed bug-detecting dogs showed an accuracy other local species of ants. of 97.5% in locating live bed bugs as well as a 90.0% Detection Dog and Bait Trap Joint Field Survey. accuracy in locating viable bed bug eggs (PÞester et Twenty-Þve tubes of trapped red imported Þre ants al. 2008). A trained German wirehaired pointer could were captured by bait traps and 13 nests were located search for screwworms, Cochliomyia hominivorax by the dogs (Fig. 1). Besides this, we also found tubes (Coquerel), with 99% positive indication rate, and occupied by other non-red imported Þre ant ants, with three German shepherds were able to sniff out the numbers from a few to hundreds depending on the gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar (L.), egg masses with an tubesÕ location and the geological distribution of the accuracy of 95% (Welch 1990, Wallner and Ellis 1976). different species of ants. The total number of tubes Many factors may affect the detection accuracy of with non-red imported Þre ants was estimated to the dogs, ranging from the training protocols, equip- be 30% out of the 1,540 tubes. ment, abiotic factors such as temperature and wind, According to the logarithmic regression curve and the maintenance of the dogsÕ memories toward (R2 0.976) showing the percentage of accumulated speciÞc odors. The handlerÕs interpretation of the bait trapped red imported Þre ant in the circled area dogÕs behavior as well as the length of dogÕs detection versus the radii, 60% of captured red imported Þre ants time also contributed to their effectiveness (Wallner were located within a 2-m radius centered at the and Ellis 1976, Welch 1990). Although all three dogs closest nest. As the radius extended to 14 m, almost received the same training process and maintenance 90% of captured red imported Þre ant were included and were tested under identical conditions, dog CÕs in the circle. Thus, only 10% of the red imported Þre positive indication rates on red imported Þre ant ßuc- ants wandered to regions outside of the radius of 14 tuated more than the other two dogs. Dog C was m of the circle centered at the nearest nest (Fig. 4). observed to become easily excited whenever unfamil- 230 JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC ENTOMOLOGY Vol. 104, no. 1 iar dogs other than dogs A and B were present, espe- the potential to improve the accuracy and reduce the cially in the outdoor environment. Such behavior of- costs of red imported Þre ant quarantine programs ten distracted it from active searching and affected the around the world. accuracy of detection. Behavioral corrections were This study was conducted to assess the trained dogsÕ attempted but were unsuccessful. Considering this, capabilities in detecting live red imported Þre ants as only dogs A and B were selected for the Þeld test of well as their nest in the Þeld. The above-mentioned investigating the red imported Þre ant nests at the results indicate that dogs can be trained to detect red Taoyuan stadium. imported Þre ants, discriminate it from three other The Australian canines were taken off their leashes species, and locate red imported Þre ant nests in the before searching and released to perform free search, Þeld. Of course, this methodology is by no means a once the nest is found the dogs wagged their tails replacement to the conventional detection methods; excitedly at the site and were subsequently rewarded instead, the application of the red imported Þre ant with playtime consisting of catch and retrieve. Our detection dogs is meant to act as a supplement to the dogs however were trained to search for Þre ants while other red imported Þre ant inspection methods by being guided on leash by a handler; this gives the providing more accurate identiÞcations of hidden handler more control over the speciÞc search area and nests. the search speed. It also prevents the dogs from getting too close to the danger of Þre ant swarms and if necessary, their mouths, noses, and paws can be in- Acknowledgments spected for red imported Þre ant immediately. Fur- We gratefully acknowledge James Ho (Wichita State Uni- thermore, a food reward was given instead of playtime versity, Wichita, KS), Chin-Gi Huang (National Taiwan Uni- after each successful detection, which ensures that our versity, Taipei, Taiwan), and Xinyu Toby Huang (Cornell dogs are well nourished and not too tired or overex- University, Ithaca, NY) for valuable discussions. We also cited from playing. Every dog was capable of working thank Dong-Yi Huang (National Changhua University of for 4 h/d, dogs that worked over this time frame were Education) for assistance in Þeld detection of red imported Þre ants by bait trap stations and those who provided assis- less motivated and easily distracted, hence leading to tance in this study. The great contributions of the lovely dogs lower detection rates. Snoopy, Giant, and Johnson in executing the experiment also Our Þeld investigation suggests that trapped red are deeply appreciated. imported Þre ant were not always adjacent to their respective nests. Such phenomena could possibly lead to an over estimation of the red imported Þre ant References Cited distribution if the investigation was conducted merely Adams, C. T. 1986. Agricultural and medical impact of the by the bait trap method. Therefore, in practice, ex- imported Þre ants, pp. 48 Ð57. In C. S. Lofgren and R. 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