Bacon County Ag Update

Fire Ant Control

There are three major treatments for problematic fire ants: individual mound treatment, baits, and broadcast granulars. Each treatment has its own advantages and disadvantages and therefore work best in certain contexts.

  • Individual mound treatments

Individual mound treatments are just that, insecticides applied to a specific problem mound. These are useful for glaring mounds that might be an eyesore or in a inconvenient location such as along a walkway or near your mailbox. It is important to use enough of these treatments to fill an entire mound, otherwise they won’t come into contact with all of the ants and kill the mound. Larger mounds can often be like icebergs, with more of the mound underground than what is show above ground. It is also important to follow any safety protocol as these treatments can often be the most toxic. It is best to apply these earlier in the morning or later at night when it is cooler as the ants are closer to the surface of the mound.

  • Baits

Baits are insecticides that are dissolved in an attractant and then absorbed onto granules. When the ants forage for food they collect the baits and bring them back to the colony. The ants feed on the granules and suck the oils out, then transfer the oils to other ants via a process called trophallaxis. There are two main types of bait: toxicants and insect growth regulators. Toxicants produce faster results (4-6 weeks) with shorter control (3-4 months). IGRs are slower (3-6 weeks) with longer control (12 months). In order for baits to work properly they must be applied in the right conditions. They break down quickly in sunlight and water so very sunny or wet days are not the right time to apply baits. It is very important to use them only when ants are foraging which is when the soil temperature is between 70 and 95 degrees. Also be sure that you are using fresh bait, since ants will ignore older bait as it can spoil. Baits are best for large areas or for application away from an are where one shouldn’t place insecticide (ants will travel to the bait and bring it back to the colony underground).

  • Granular Broadcast Treatment 

Granular broadcast treatments are the spreading of an insecticide across a large area. They can be used as a once a year treatment and can be used at any time of the year. They are very effective for the area in which they are used, but have a strong “edge effect” in which colonies could form right along the edge of a untreated to treated area. Most broadcast treatments require water soon after application to activate. These treatments are most useful when near 100% control is needed in smaller areas, when control is desired during the off season, or when long term control is needed.

  • Other notes

There is no one silver bullet for control and it is best to utilize all of the tools available for the best management. The Texas two step (combining baits and IMT) and Clemson two step (Baits and Granular Broadcast) are researched and effective methods of combining treatments for better control. More information on products available can be found here  and more information of the different control methods can be found here. Contact the Bacon County Extension office if you have any more questions or concerns regarding fire ants.