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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.

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Invasive fire ants crawl over a mound of soil. (File photo by MSU Extension/Kat Lawrence)
Filed Under: Fire Ants November 8, 2017

Just when we think we’ve conquered our tiny foes, it rains, and fresh fire ant mounds pop up in our yard.

Like many tasks around the house, fighting fire ants feels like a constant battle. My husband and I finally started seeing some progress when we followed recommendations from MSU Extension’s expert, Dr. Blake Layton. (Yeah, that’s a side benefit of my job, learning all kinds of practical information!)

Fire ant mounds are common along fence lines where they are protected from grass-cutting equipment and other traffic, such as this mound in an Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, pasture on May 11, 2015. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Kevin Hudson)
Filed Under: Forages, Insects-Forage Pests, Fire Ants May 19, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Southern farmers may never win the battle against imported fire ants, but aggressive tactics can slow the pests’ invasion, reduce damage and prevent further spread across the United States.

Jane Parish is an Extension/research professor with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. She said cattle and hay producers have learned to live with and work around the troublesome ants since the pests arrived in the state almost a century ago.

The biggest reason people have trouble controlling fire ants is that they only treat individual fire ant mounds. Individual mound treatments can be useful situationally, but need to be supplemented with broadcast treatments that will control all fire ants in all areas. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kat Lawrence)
Filed Under: Agriculture, Insects-Crop Pests, Insects-Forage Pests, Insects, Fire Ants, Insects-Pests May 15, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- People have many misconceptions on how to eliminate fire ant mounds and prevent them from coming back, and these erroneous beliefs hinder efforts to keep the harmful pest from spreading.

Many dogs spend time outside and often share their play areas with fire ants. When disturbed, the ants sting and deliver venom that can cause severe allergic reactions for some pets and children. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Susan Collins-Smith)
Filed Under: Fire Ants May 5, 2015

RAYMOND, Miss. -- Fire ants can be more than unwelcome guests in the home lawn; their stings can be dangerous for children and pets who share play areas with the pests.

Fire ant stings are characterized by sharp localized pain, swelling and intense itchiness that is just a short-lived nuisance for most. A raised red bump appears soon after the sting and soon turns into a sterile pustule that resembles a pimple. However, the ants’ venom can cause severe allergic reactions in some people and pets.

Most fire ants found in Mississippi are a hybrid between the red imported fire ant, pictured here, and the black imported fire ant. (Photo by Mississippi Entomological Museum/Joe A. MacGown)
Filed Under: Fire Ants April 24, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Tell Mississippians that fire ants have completely invaded the state, and they’ll probably shrug and say they already know that. Tell them the pain actually comes from a sting rather than a bite, and they’ll say it still hurts. But tell them how to get rid of the nasty critters, and they’re all ears.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service is organizing efforts to help residents Bite Back against fire ants. The solution is a simple two-part attack, but success comes in the long-term follow-through.

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Fire Ant Control

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Entomology; extension insect identification; fire ants; termites; insect pests in the home, lawn and