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Fire Ants in Pastures and Hay Fields

Fire ants occur in every pasture, hayfield, and barnyard in the state. Although they are definitely a nuisance and hazard, it may not always be worth the time and expense required to control fire ants. Most Mississippi pastures are not routinely treated to control fire ants, and it is difficult to argue that it would be economically justifiable to do so. However, there are many situations where it is desirable to control fire ants. These range from frequently used barnyards, horse pastures, and lamb or goat pens to highly managed hayfields. The decision as to whether or not to control fire ants on a particular field or barnyard is up to the individual producer depending on how the area is used. Fortunately, there are tools available that will allow producers to control fire ants in such settings, even when grazing animals are present, with relatively low labor and costs inputs.

Granular fire ant baits are the best way to control fire ants in pastures and hayfields, but it is important to be sure the bait you buy is approved for use around grazing animals.

Fire ant baits are applied at very low rates, usually one to two pounds per acre. Some companies make spreaders that are specially designed to apply these low rates over large acreage. Depending on the level of control desired, the annual cost of controlling fire ants in a pasture or hay field can range from around $10 to $50 per acre.

See Extension Publication 2493, Control Fire Ants in Pastures, Hayfields, and Barnyards for recommended bait treatments and details on use. Read the section on Fire Ant Biology to learn more about how baits work.

Shipping Hay from Mississippi to Fire Ant-Free Areas:

All Mississippi counties are infested with imported fire ants and baled hay and straw must be certified as being free of fire ants before it can be shipped to uninfested areas. See the Imported Fire Ant Quarantine Map.

Before shipping hay or straw outside of the Imported Fire Ant Quarantine zone, contact the Mississippi Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry to arrange for inspection(s) and certification.

See the USDA, APHIS publication, Questions and Answers for Producers, Sellers, and Buyers of Baled Hay Moving from Areas Under Quarantine for Imported Fire Ant, for additional information about shipping baled hay and straw outside imported fire ant quarantined areas.

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Publications

News

Mississippi is home to several species of cicadas, including this annual cicada. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kat Lawrence)
Filed Under: Insects-Forage Pests December 21, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- While many humans anticipate making certain changes with the arrival of a new year, certain insects have much different life cycles.

Periodical cicadas may anticipate emerging from the ground in 2016, while others may simply have to wait a few more years to see the light of day.

Cicadas are curious creatures. From beady eyes on the sides of their heads to prominent veins stretching across their glassy wings, they seem to be created from the Twilight Zone. Yet, they produce one the most common sounds of summer.

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.

Simpson County producer Jimmy Welch's hayfield shows damage from Bermuda grass stem maggots on July 24, 2014. The pest feeds in the tips of developing stems. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Susan Collins-Smith)
Filed Under: Forages, Insects-Forage Pests, Turfgrass and Lawn Management July 25, 2014

JACKSON -- Turf and forage producers in Mississippi need fewer clouds and more sunshine.

In 2014, forage producers raised an estimated 600,000 acres of hay across the state. There are about 60 farms producing sod for sale in the state.

Turf production…

The unusually harsh winter melted into a cool, wet spring and summer, which slowed spring growth and intensified diseases and last fall’s herbicide injury in sod, said Jay McCurdy, turf grass specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Rocky Lemus, forage specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, examines stem maggot damage on the tips of bermudagrass growing in research plots in the forage unit at the Henry H. Leveck Animal Research Farm in Starkville on Aug. 7, 2013. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Linda Breazeale)
Filed Under: Forages, Insects-Forage Pests August 9, 2013

MISSISSIPPI STATE – Forage producers and their livestock are not the only ones admiring the plentiful bermudagrass fields and pastures across the state this year.

Another invasive insect has arrived in Mississippi, this time to take a bite out of potentially strong hay yields. Stem maggots are joining the list of invasive species in the state that includes fire ants, fall armyworms, kudzu bugs, and once upon a time, boll weevils.

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