The new Healthy Animals newsletter from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service outlines new methods for controlling fire ants and new tests for foot-and-mouth disease.

ARS scientists have evaluated baits for controlling imported fire ants and have identified biological control strategies to reduce the ants’ numbers. They've also conducted surveys to compare the population sizes of native ants and imported fire ants in different regions and under different management strategies. In one study, researchers are developing commercial biopesticides using insect-killing fungi. Another uses baits with pheromone attractants specific to fire ants, which the researcher says will decrease the likelihood of new infestations because native ants will be more likely to survive and attack newly mated fire ant queens.

The newsletter also describes research for detecting and controlling foot-and-mouth disease. One study used infrared cameras to detect elevated hoof temperatures, a symptom of FMD in cattle. Infrared technology could detect elevated temperatures up to two days before cattle develop clinical signs. Cheaper and faster than existing screening methods, this technology could allow scientists and veterinarians to identify potentially infected cattle in large groups, without examining animals individually. ARS scientists have also collaborated with a biotechnology company to develop a test that can detect RNA from the FMD virus in less than two hours. In the event of an FMD emergency, laboratories throughout the United States could use this technology to diagnose samples rapidly. Scientists also are making improvements to a FMD vaccine that can be produced without using infectious FMD materials, which means it can be made on the U.S. mainland without the need for expensive, high-containment production facilities.

View The Healthy Animals newsletter .