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Two steps needed for fire ant control
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Fire ants are one of the most frustrating insect pests to deal with in Mississippi lawns, but they can be successfully controlled with the correct approach.
“There is a lot of confusion when it comes to treating fire ants, but it is not that complicated,” said Blake Layton, an entomology specialist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service. “I recommend using what I call the one-two punch.”
The first step is to apply granular fire ant baits to the entire yard three times per year – around Easter, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Follow that up by treating any mounds the bait treatments miss.
“Baits are the foundation for a good fire ant control program because they can eliminate newly formed fire ant colonies before they become large mounds,” Layton said. “The ants collect the bait granules, carry them back to the mound and feed them to the developing larvae.”
Bait treatments are quick and easy to apply. They are inexpensive when used at the proper rate. They should give about 90 percent control when used properly.
“That means you will have one-tenth as many problem mounds using baits as compared to not using baits,” Layton said.
Treat mounds that pop up between broadcast bait treatments with individual mound treatments.
“Unlike granular baits, mound treatments are applied directly to the mound and come in dry and liquid formulas,” Layton said. “These kill by contact rather than by being eaten.”
Dry mound treatments are quick and easy to apply but take a few days to provide control. Liquid formulas, or drenches, take more time to prepare but eliminate the mound within just a few hours.
“Drenches are too much trouble for routine use, but they are the best choice when you need quick elimination,” Layton said. “For instance, if a mound is next to the patio where a party is planned for that evening, use a drench.”
Always use a product appropriate for the area where it will be applied and follow the directions carefully, Layton said.
Other non-native species, including Argentine ants, dark rover ants and hairy crazy ants, are also causing problems in Mississippi. All three of these species are difficult to control because of their large populations.
“Historically, Argentine ants were a serious pest in Mississippi, but due to area-wide treatment plans in the early to mid-1900s, effective control was achieved,” said Joe MacGown, a research technician who specializes in ants in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology at MSU. “However, we have seen a resurgence in levels of this species in recent years.
“Equally troubling is the presence and spread of hairy crazy ants along the Gulf Coast. Both Argentine ants and hairy crazy ants form large, super colonies and can pose serious problems indoors and outdoors.”
MacGown said besides treating with pesticides, the best way to reduce the probability of any insects coming indoors is to keep food items sealed, prevent trees and other landscaping from touching the house, and seal any unnecessary openings where insects could enter.
Extension publication 2429, “Control Fire Ants in Your Yard,” provides more information about controlling fire ants in home lawns. For information about controlling fire ants in other settings, visit http://extension.msstate.edu/insects/fire-ants or call the local MSU Extension office. Local Extension offices can also provide information on controlling other nuisance insects.