Fire ants out with a vengeance

The Standard Journal - - LIFESTYLE - By Ricky Ens­ley Polk County Ex­ten­sion Co­or­di­na­tor

The Ens­ley fam­ily has had sev­eral en­coun­ters with fire ants re­cently. Fire ants are more ac­tive in the fall. They like tem­per­a­tures be­tween 70 and 85 de­grees.

Just as fam­i­lies pre­pare for the win­ter, so do in­sects. In­sects have an in­stinct to sur­vive and re­pro­duce. To sur­vive win­ter they must make prepa­ra­tions. Fall is an ex­cel­lent time to dis­rupt fire ants.

Here are some tips from our UGA en­to­mol­o­gists to tell us how to com­bat our en­emy - the fire ant.

Cold is tough on fire ants. If we can weaken fire ant colonies now, they may not sur­vive the win­ter.

Fire ant tun­nels are con­stantly col­laps­ing. A colony needs lots of ants to re­place these, to dig deeper and to col­lect food. Colonies with fewer ants can­not re­spond well to the stresses of win­ter and may die off.

Treat­ing ants now re­duces their chances of win­ter sur­vival. Fire ants are more likely to pick up in­sec­ti­cide baits in the fall. They are also deep in the ground. To kill them it is crit­i­cal to treat when queen and young are close to the sur­face.

One last ad­van­tage of fall treat­ment is that many of the mounds are young and small. Fire ants re­pro­duce year round but are most ac­tive in the spring. These new colonies take about six months to show up. Now we have lots of small un­no­ticed mounds in our lawns. If we do not kill them now, they may be­come the big mounds we see next spring.

How do you treat them? Use a two-step pro­gram.

Step one:

Broad­cast bait over the en­tire lawn. Do this when ants are ac­tively look­ing for food. This will kill about 90% of the fire ants but it may take a while. Some bait re­quires weeks to work. It is bet­ter to wait un­til the bait has had a chance to work be­fore pro­ceed­ing to the sec­ond step.

Step two:

In­di­vid­ual mound treat­ments.

With dust prod­ucts, no wa­ter is needed and they act fast. Dust prod­ucts leave a residue. Liq­uid drenches and gen­er­ally elim­i­nate mounds within a few hours and leaves lit­tle sur­face residue af­ter ap­pli­ca­tion. Gran­u­lar prod­ucts are fast act­ing and usu­ally re­quire putting gran­ules on and around the mound then sprin­kling 1 to 2 gal­lons of wa­ter with­out dis­turb­ing the mound. Read and fol­low la­bel di­rec­tions closely.

Or­ganic. Pour­ing 2 to 3 gal­lons of very hot or boil­ing wa­ter on the mound will kill ants about 60% of the time. Oth­er­wise, the ants will prob­a­bly just move to an­other lo­ca­tion. Very hot or boil­ing wa­ter will also kill the grass or sur­round­ing veg­e­ta­tion that it is poured upon. Other nat­u­ral or or­ganic meth­ods in­clude mound drench prod­ucts con­tain­ing plant de­rived in­gre­di­ents and bi­o­log­i­cal con­trol agents.

For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about fire ants, contact the Polk County Ex­ten­sion Office at 770-749-2142 or [email protected]

Ricky Ens­ley

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