On Monday April 15, U of A County Extension Agent Shaun Rhoades spoke at Dalton’s Place for the Mayor’s Community Coffee event.
Mayor David Millard introduced Rhoades, who presented information on controlling those pesky fire ants.
Step One: Broadcast Bait Applications
Most fire ant bait is a combination of insecticide plus an attractive fire ant food (generally processed corn grits coated with soybean oil). Baits are taken into the colony by ants.
The bait is distributed to other members of the colony through the exchange of food, a process known as trophallaxis. One key to the efficiency of baits is that the insecticide gets to the queen. Although several fire ant baits are available, there are two main types: insect growth regulators (IGRs) and actual toxins.
Rhoades explained that it is crucial to put the bait stations out when the weather is dry and warm. “A lot of people put those bait stations out when when it’s rainy and wet. Then they don’t thing these they work. If you put them out at the right time, they will work.”
Broadcast treatments are less expensive (in terms of product cost as well as time) and control colonies even when mounds are not visible. For best results:
• Use fresh bait, preferably from an unopened container or one that has been tightly sealed and not stored for long periods (most labels suggest using within three to six months after opening). • Do not disturb mounds before bait application. • Apply bait when the ground and grass are dry and rain is not expected for the next 12 to 24 hours.
Broadcast Bait Application
• Apply bait when foraging ants are actively searching for food. This can be determined by leaving a small amount of food material (hot dog pieces or greasy chips) near an active mound. If ants are seen on the hot dog piece or chip within 10 to 30 minutes, it’s a good time to apply bait. Ants are less active during cold and hot periods (when soil temperature is less than 70°F or greater than 95°F).
• In the summer, it may be necessary to apply baits in late afternoon or evening when ants are most active.
• READ AND FOLLOW LABEL INSTRUCTIONS. Make certain the area you plan to treat with the bait product is listed on the label. Most bait products can be used in residential, recreational and landscaped areas. However, only a few baits are labeled for use in agricultural areas, such as cropland, pastures, orchards and vegetable gardens. For example, Extinguish, Esteem and Safer or Greenlight Fire Ant Baits are the only fire ant baits labeled for use in home gardens and/or cropland. Amdro Pro, Esteem, Extinguish and Extinguish Plus are the only baits labeled for use on pastures and hay meadows.
Baits can be applied with handheld seed spreaders, such as the Cyclone Seed Sower, Ortho Whirlybird or EZ Handspreader. For small areas, set the spreader at the smallest opening and make passes (swaths) approximately 10 to 15 feet apart (a couple of passes for the average yard) at a normal walking speed to apply the recommended rate (for most baits 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per acre)
Step Two: Individual Mound Treatment
Chemical and nonchemical methods may be used for individual treatment of fire ant mounds. Individual mound treatments should be applied from seven to ten days followingthe broadcast of bait. Dusts, liquid drenches, granules and aerosols are examples of contact insecticides. As a contact insecticide, these products must actually come into direct contact with the ant.
Chemical Treatments. Some products are formulated as dusts. Ants walking through the treated soil get dust on their bodies and transport the insecticide into the mound. Within a few days, the entire colony should be killed. To use a dust, distribute the recommended amount evenly over the mound. DO NOT INHALE THE DUST OR GET IT ON YOUR SKIN, AND DO NOT DISTURB THE MOUND PRIOR TO TREATMENT.
Some chemical products are formulated as liquid concentrates or wettable powders that are diluted/mixed with water and then applied to the mound. These liquid drenches kill the ants underground but must be applied in sufficient volume to penetrate the entire nest (one to two gallons of diluted mixture poured over the top of each mound). Mound drenches generally provide control within a few hours. When handling liquid concentrates, always wear unlined chemicalresistant gloves and other personal protective equipment as specified on the product label to avoid getting the product on your skin. Mix the proper amount in a one or twogallon container, such as a sprinkler can. Write “POISON” on the container, and do not use for any other
Drenches purpose. DO NOT DISTURB THE MOUND PRIOR TO TREATMENT.
Bait products, as mentioned above for broadcast treatment, can also be used for treatment of individual mounds. Baits are applied as described in step one – except that they are not broadcast but applied around individual problem mounds. DO NOT APPLY BAITS DIRECTLY ON THE MOUND OR DISTURB THE MOUND. Uniformly sprinkle 3 to 5 level tablespoons from 1 to 3 feet around the base of the mound.
Granular products are another method of getting insecticides into fire ant mounds. The active ingredient in a granular insecticide is released when water is poured over the granules. To treat a single mound, measure out the recommended amount and sprinkle it on and around the mound. DO NOT DISTURB THE MOUND. Use a sprinkling can that breaks the water stream into droplets to pour 1 to 2 gallons of water over the treated mound if the label states the product needs to be watered in. Sprinkle gently to avoid disturbing the colony and washing the granules off the mound. Remember, application of less than the recommended amount of water with either liquid concentrates or granular insecticides provides poor results. Unless the product completely penetrates the mound, ants will move to a different site via underground foraging tunnels to avoid the poison.
Some products are formulated as aerosols, to which an injection rod is attached. The rod is inserted into the mound and the insecticide is injected, according to label instructions. Many of the applications of contact insecticides are faster acting than applications of baits; however, baits have the advantage of treating inaccessible and unseen mounds. Baits also are formulated to impact the queen. To kill a fire ant colony, you must kill the queen.