Preventive application of granular fire ant bait is one of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective methods of fire ant control. Most home lawns can be easily treated by using a small, handheld seeder, or by simply shaking the granules through the holes in the top of the container. But how does one treat larger areas such as pastures, hayfields, horse paddocks, sports fields, school grounds, cemeteries or parks?
The problem is that granular fire ant baits are applied as such low rates—only 1 to 2 pounds per acre—that a fertilizer spreader just won’t work. It will apply far too much bait. Mixing the fire ant bait with fertilizer is not a good solution either because the fertilizer will absorb much of the oil from the bait, making it less palatable to the ants, also the timing for fertilizer applications and fire ant bait treatments doesn’t always coincide.
The only good solution is to use a spreader that is specially designed and calibrated to apply small quantities of granular materials. With careful calibration and use, some hand crank “belly-grinder” style spreaders can be used to treat areas up to around four or five acres, but it is challenging to achieve and maintain proper rate and distribution and using these things requires both foot power and muscle power. If you are going to be applying fire ant bait to large acreages on a regular basis, you will probably want a spreader that is motor driven.
One of the most useful tools for applying fire ant bait over larger acreages is the Herd Seeder, Model GT-77-ATV Broadcast Seeder/Spreader. This spreader is specially designed to apply small seed such as turnips and grasses and can be purchased with optional restrictor plates for application of granular fire ant baits. If you purchase one of these be sure to get the restrictor plate that matches the fire ant bait you plan to use. These spreaders are powered by a 12 volt motor, can be easily mounted on an ATV, tractor or lawn mower and do a great job of applying granular fire ant baits on pastures, parks, sports fields and similar settings.
Aerial application of granular fire ant baits is also an option for especially large-scale jobs, or for treating brushy areas that can’t be driven over. Why would anyone want to do this? Fire ants are a significant, and ecologically unnatural, cause of mortality for small ground-nesting animals such as quail, rabbits and other wildlife. Reducing fire ant populations is one way to improve wildlife populations and some baits are approved and available for this use.
See Extension Publication 2493, Control Fire Ants in Pastures, Hayfields, and Barnyards, for more information.
Also see the MSU Extension Fire Ant Web Site for more detailed information on fire ant biology and information on controlling fire ants in other special situations, like sports fields, school grounds, cemeteries, orchards, or vegetable gardens, as well as in home lawns.Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist, Mississippi State University Extension Service. The information given here is for educational purposes only. Always read and follow current label directions. Specific commercial products are mentioned as examples only and reference to specific products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended to other products that may also be suitable and appropriately labeled. Sign up to receive Bug's Eye View