Monday, September 20, 2010

Remember to Treat for Fire Ants This Fall

Remember that the end of summer means treating for fire ants! Since the weather has been so hot this summer, we might not necessarily see the fire ant mounds in our yards. However, they are still in the area and are living deep in the soil. Since fire ants are a medically important insect pest, we need to treat this fall to decrease their populations next spring.
Before treating for fire ants, one must first survey the area to determine the number of mounds. If less than 5 mounds are present in a quarter acre plot, then it is advised to treat the individual mounds with a bait, drench or dust.
If more than 5 mounds are present, then treatment should be broadcasted over the entire area. A fire ant bait or contact insecticide may be used. Fire ant baits are comprised of defatted corn grit covered with an insecticide and soybean oil. Before broadcasting the fire ant bait, foraging activity should be evaluated by placing a potato chip or hot dog next to a mound. If fire ants find the food within fifteen minutes, then it is an appropriate time to broadcast the fire ant bait. Fire ants will typically forage when the soil surface temperature is between 70 and 90° F. Fire ant baits should never be watered into the soil and they should not be used if they smell rancid. Contact insecticides can also be broadcasted over the entire area and these need to be watered into the soil. One contact insecticide, containing the active ingredient fipronil, can be used for fire ant control and will usually provide 9 to 12 months control.
Both fire ant baits and contact insecticides can be broadcast using a hand-held spreader for small areas or a Herd Seeder can be mounted onto a truck or ATV to treat larger areas.
For more information, please visit the fire ant webpage at

Fire ant mound in a landscape. Photo by Dr. Bart Drees, Professor and Extension Entomologist, Texas A&M University.

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