Fire Ant Control In Commercial Fruits, Nuts and Vegetables
Fire ants are serious pests in commercial fruits, nuts, and vegetables, where they can cause a wide range of problems. Not only do they sting field workers and interfere with harvest and other hand labor operations, they also cause direct damage to crops such as okra or potatoes, and sometimes damage young trees by chewing through tender bark. Fire ants especially like to nest beneath plastic row covers in the winter and spring because of the increased warmth and protection they provide. Fire ants sometimes chew through irrigation tubing and cause damage to other equipment, either due to physical damage cause by their mounds, or by causing shorts in irrigation timers and other electrical equipment. Fire ants are especially unwelcomed in pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farms because of their ability to turn an enjoyable family experience into a, still memorable but far less pleasant experience that may make clients less likely to plan return visits.
Granular baits can be used to control fire ants, but only a few baits are labeled for use around food crops—be sure you use a bait that is. Baits work well, but they work slowly, so it is important to apply them preventively. See Extension Publication 2494, Control Fire Ants in Commercial Fruits, Nuts, and Vegetables for recommended bait treatments and how to apply them. Read the section on Fire Ant Biology to learn more about how and why baits work.
Contact information for Dr. Blake Layton.
If you want fewer fire ant beds in your yard, the best way to achieve that goal is to maintain a consistent management plan throughout the year.
This is the time of year to start a good fire ant management plan that can reduce the number of beds in your yard by 80 to 90 percent.
Even if you preventatively treat your yard periodically through the year for fire ants, you’ll still see mounds pop up.
There are two ways to treat these mounds: liquid drenches and dry powders. (File photo by MSU Extension Service.)
Fire ant mounds always pop up right where you don’t need them – in the flower bed you planned to weed tomorrow, next to the mailbox that needs to be reset, and near the patio where you are throwing a party tonight. (Photo by Brian Utley/Cindy Callahan)
Fire ants are everywhere. If you’ve thrown your hands up in exasperation trying to deal with them, don’t give up just yet. (File photo by MSU Extension Service)