Colonization by the Red Imported Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta, Modifies Soil Bacterial Communities. Academic Article uri icon


  • The long-standing association between insects and microorganisms has been especially crucial to the evolutionary and ecological success of social insect groups. Notably, research on the interaction of the two social forms (monogyne and polygyne) of the red imported fire ant (RIFA), Solenopsis invicta Buren, with microbes in its soil habitat is presently limited. In this study, we characterized bacterial microbiomes associated with RIFA nest soils and native (RIFA-negative) soils to better understand the effects of colonization of RIFA on soil microbial communities. Bacterial community fingerprints of 16S rRNA amplicons using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis revealed significant differences in the structure of the bacterial communities between RIFA-positive and RIFA-negative soils at 0 and 10 cm depths. Illumina sequencing of 16S rRNA amplicons provided fine-scale analysis to test for effects of RIFA colonization, RIFA social form, and soil depth on the composition of the bacterial microbiomes of the soil and RIFA workers. Our results showed the bacterial community structure of RIFA-colonized soils to be significantly different from native soil communities and to evidence elevated abundances of several taxa, including Actinobacteria. Colony social form was not found to be a significant factor in nest or RIFA worker microbiome compositions. RIFA workers and nest soils were determined to have markedly different bacterial communities, with RIFA worker microbiomes being characterized by high abundances of a Bartonella-like endosymbiont and Entomoplasmataceae. Cloning and sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene revealed the Bartonella sp. to be a novel bacterium.

published proceedings

  • Microb Ecol

altmetric score

  • 8.08

author list (cited authors)

  • Travanty, N. V., Vargo, E. L., Apperson, C. S., & Ponnusamy, L.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Travanty, Nicholas V||Vargo, Edward L||Apperson, Charles S||Ponnusamy, Loganathan

publication date

  • January 2022