With warmer weather just around the corner, early spring is the perfect time to tackle problems with fire ants before they spoil your summer fun.
A quick Internet search will yield a slew of home remedies that are reported to get rid of fire ants. Unfortunately, there is no proof that any of these remedies work. The most effective and most ecologically sound way to get rid of fire ants is to use a bait product containing the active ingredients hydramethylnon (for example, Amdro), methoprene or spinosad. The key is using it correctly.
Homeowners have two options for fire ant treatment: baits and broadcasts. Amdro, for example, consists of a small granule of ground corncob saturated in soybean oil that contains the active ingredients hydramethylnon and/or methoprene.
Hydramethylnon is an acute toxin designed to kill fire ants when they eat the bait. The broadcast poisons are made of clay particles coated with a chemical like bifenthrin, which kills fire ants when they come in contact with the residue left behind.
Bifenthrin is not selective; it kills any insect, both beneficial and harmful.
Follow the directions on the fire ant bait package exactly. Apply bait in a 2- or 3-foot diameter circle around the mound but not on top of the mound. The ants will forage out, retrieve the bait and take it back to their nest. Since fire ants do not typically forage on top of their mound, they may not find it to eat it if you apply it to the top of the mound.
Its best to apply bait on a warm sunny day after the dew has dried. Baits should never be applied to wet soil or watered into grass. This will ruin the smell and taste of the bait. Never water in bait after its been spread.
Ants have a heightened sense of smell and can also tell if the bait has gone rancid. Bait stored for more than a year or kept near gasoline or fertilizer may not be as effective.
Cigarette smokers or anyone who has handled gasoline or fertilizers should wear gloves when applying bait because even subtle changes in the baits odor can deter ants. When using a handheld broadcast spreader to apply the bait, make sure it has not been used for any other lawn chemicals. If its new, rinse it with water before spreading the bait to cut down on the smell of new plastic.
Avoid disturbing the ant beds before treating them with bait. This distracts them from their primary goal of foraging for food. I know its tempting, but do not kick the mound. After bait has been applied, nearby ants will forage out to collect it, and it should be gone within hours, Suiter said.
Over the next week to 10 days, the ants will suck the poison-laden soybean oil off the corn granules and begin to die. If a mound is still active 10 days after application, a second application of bait may be necessary.
For more information on any program area, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or drop by our office in the old courthouse, downtown Perry, 801 Main St. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visit our website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston for more news about your local Extension office.
Dates to remember
March is AG Awareness Month
March 19: Growing Vegetables in Containers, Perry
March 20: Farm Bill Workshop, Perry
March 21-22: Spring Plant Sale, Macon
April 5-6: Spring Home and Garden Show, Perry
April 29: Totally Tomatoes
Charlotte Mote is the Houston County agricultural and natural resources agent. Contact her at 478-987-2028 or firstname.lastname@example.org.