Controlling fire ant population

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, October 8, 2014

With fewer daylight hours and cooler temperatures, our lawns have slowed considerably in growth, thus giving us more time to pay greater attention to lawn care activities other than mowing.
One such activity that you should consider now is an insecticide application to control fire ants.
Fire ants are a nuisance and a painful pest that we must manage, as it is unlikely that we will ever eradicate them.
While the larger colonies are quite noticeable by their elevated mounds, it is those smaller not so obvious ones that keep their ever presence in our lawns.
Killing the queens is the only way to eliminate fire ant colonies.
There are several methods of applying products that control fire ants such as mound drenches, dry mound treatments, or broadcast sprays or granules.
Probably one of the most effective for homeowners in terms of costs and effort is granular baits applied three times a year (spring, mid-summer, and fall).
Baits can be applied to individual mounds, but when broadcast across the entire lawn you also eliminate small undetected colonies that quickly replace the larger ones you individually treated.
Granular bait applications are very effective this time of year as foraging ants looking for food will carry the bait back to the colony, pass it through the food chain and ultimately feed it to the queen.
Baits should be applied when the ground is dry and preferably in the late afternoon to ensure that the ants pick it up before it can degrade from bright sunlight and higher temperatures.
Baits should always be applied as fresh product since the food source can become rancid overtime and the ants will not eat it.
The larger the area treated the greater efficacy you will obtain; therefore, you may want to organize with neighbors to treat several lawns at once.
Baits can provide 80 to 90 percent control when applied two to three times a year and a fall application now will eliminate many colonies before winter.
If you have large colonies that need immediate reduction then individual contact insecticide mound treatments can be used in combination with baits, but wait at least a few days to allow the workers to bring the baits into the mound.
There are many trade name baits available containing at least one of the following active ingredients: hydromethylon, fenoxycarb, spinosad, pyriproxyfen, methoprene, or abamectin.
Since baits generally use some type of oils for attracting ants it is important to use fresh baits and store them in cool dry areas so they don’t become rancid.

By Eddie Smith

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