Spring is here and temperatures are warming up. It is time to be outside working in our yards and gardens, but we need to be on the lookout for fire ants.
You can tell if you have fire ants if you see a mound of fluffy worked soil, especially after a few days of heavy rain. Fire ant moves about through underground tunnels. Turf grass mounds can reach 18 inches in height; however most will only be a few inches tall due to disturbance.
Fire ants are very small, about 1/8” to ¼” long. They do have a variation in size, which is a distinguishing characteristic of imported fire ants. If you happen to get stung, it feels like getting burned. A day or so later, a white fluid filled pustule or blister at the red sting site will appear. Only fire ant venom causes this symptom.
There are several options for treating fire ant problems. Make sure that when you manage your fire ant problem that you are using a product that is labeled for the location or “site” you want to treat. An example would be, do not use a product in your garden unless it is listed on the label
Step One: Bait Products
Fire ant baits consist of pesticides on processed corn grits coated with soybean oil. Worker ants take the bait back to the colony, where it is shared with the queen, which then either dies or becomes infertile. Baits currently available include Amdro, Siege, Logic, Award, Ascend, or Raid Fire Ant Killer. Baits are slow-acting and require weeks to months to achieve 80% to 90% control. Bait products can be used to easily treat large areas effectively.
Step Two: Individual Mound Treatments
Chemical. With dust products, no water is needed and they act fast. However, they leave a surface residue. Liquid drenches generally eliminate mounds within a few hours and leave little surface residue after application. Granular products are relatively fast acting and usually require putting granules on and around the mound and then sprinkling 1 to 2 gallons of water on without disturbing the mound. Closely follow directions on the label.
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 kill the grass or surrounding vegetation that it is poured upon. Other natural or organic methods include mound drench products containing plant derived ingredients (e.g. botanical insecticides) and biological control agents.
If you have any questions, please contact the Erath County Extension Office at 254-965-1460.
Lonnie Jenschke is an Erath County extension agent. His column appears weekly and online at yourstephenvilletx.com.