The Sun News

Control fire ants to avoid doing ‘fire ant dance’

Folks are friendly in the South. We often wave to folks as they pass by, whether we know them or not. Of course, for those Southerners living below the gnat line, we may just be waving away the gnats.

Also note that if we recognize your last name, we want to see to whom you are related. Southerners like to invite you over to “sit a spell.” There’s often food involved in these visits. Then we ask personal questions just to get to know you.

And then there are the festivals — in many shapes and sizes. There are festivals named for flowers, rivers, local landmarks and insects. There is even a Fire Ant Festival, www.fireantfestival.com, planned for March 26-27 in Ashburn. It would take a Southerner to get friendly with a fire ant.

Fire ants introduced a dance to the Southern way of life. The dance happens when people do not notice they are standing in a fire ant mound until the ants have crawled up to their chin. Once the ants start biting, the dance begins.

Fire ants are beginning to be active. Their low, shield-shaped mounds are common across Georgia lawns and landscapes. You can tell that a mound has become active if there is fresh dirt on top.

Another dance may help us to control these pesky insects. I call it the Fire Ant Two-Step.

The first step in the Fire Ant Two-Step control method is to apply a bait to the entire lawn. Fire ant baits are one of the best methods of long-term control. Baits are foods that fire ants eat with an insecticide added. Broadcast a fire ant bait over the entire lawn. Do this when ants are actively looking for food. The temperatures should be between 70 and 85 degrees. When using any pesticide, read and follow all label directions.

When selecting baits, be sure you are buying baits and not granules. Look for the words “fire ant” and “bait” on the label. There are many fire ant baits available, but several include Amdro, Once & Done and Conserve. When using baits, use fresh baits, keep the baits dry and apply them when fire ants are out of the mound and looking for food.

Baits generally control about 90 percent of the fire ant mounds. Control can last for up to six months. Some baits require weeks to work, so be patient. Read the label for details.

The bait may miss a few mounds. Step number two is to treat remaining mounds with Orthene (acephate) dust, granular insecticides or liquid insecticide drenches. To use liquid drenches, mix up several gallons of insecticide mixture according to the label. Slowly pour about one gallon of this on each mound. Ants should be dead within the next day or so.

Re-apply fire ant baits every fall and spring, when ants are actively looking for food. If you do not treat again each fall and spring, the ants may come back in even greater numbers.

Some insecticide granules give relatively short-term control. One exception is the Over ‘n Out granular insecticide. Over ‘n Out (containing fipronil) provides about a full season of fire ant control. It tends to do a better job preventing new mounds than baits. It must be used exactly as the label recommends for best results.

Note that most home remedies for fire ants, such as club soda or grits, either do not work or are dangerous. Use the Fire Ant Two-Step to manage the levels of this vicious pest.

UGA Extension is offering a class for homeowners on Maintaining a Healthy Lawn. This class covers general characteristics, water and fertilizer needs and maintenance for the four major warm-season turf grasses. Attendees can select from sessions on weeds, insects and diseases.

The class will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Extension Office Multipurpose Room on the top floor of the old courthouse in Perry. The cost is $10 per person. Visit www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston and click on News and Events to download a registration form or call 987-2028.

Willie Chance is retired from UGA Extension in Houston County. To reach your local extension office, call (800) ASK-UGA1 from any non-cell phone. To subscribe to the central Georgia home gardening newsletter, e-mail mg@uga.edu.

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