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Prepare to treat fire ants this fall

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Prepare to treat fire ants this fall

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Jones County ESxtension ervice

As we approach the end of summer, football is getting closer, pumpkin patches will start to open soon, and the Halloween and Thanksgiving festivities will soon begin. Also, as we leave the dog days of summer behind, more and more people will start to go back outside to enjoy the cooler weather. One of the worst ways to end a good mood is to step into a big fire ant bed.Whilenormallywethink about controlling this pest in the spring, fall can help greatly in reducing the number of ants you will encounter in the spring.

The red imported fire ant was introduced through a port in Mobile, AL from South Americainthe1930s.Thefire ant now infests more than 325 million acres from California throughout the southern US and Puerto Rico. Imported ants disturb native habitats and home landscapes and have created vast impact on the state of Texas alone. “When fire ants sting, they release toxins that cause blisters, prolonged agony and even possible allergic reactions, said Wayne Gardner, a research entomologist will the UGA College and Agriculture andEnvironmentalSciences.

“Fire ant colonies reach their peak in the fall having grown throughout the summer months,” said Dan Suiter, UGA Extension Entomologist. Fire ants are the most active the spring and fall, when daytime temperatures are between 70 and 85 degrees, Suiter said. Actively foraging ants will pick up bait and carry it into the nest within the first hour or two.

Another reason to consider treating in the fall is the fact that the ants are not too deep in the ground. This is important because it makes them more susceptible to mounddrench, granular, dust or aerosol contact insecticides. When using these products it is critical to treat when the queen and brood are close to the surface, according to Dr. Suiter. A couple of other reasons to treat in the fall are many of the colonies are young and the fall is followed by winter which can be harsh on fire ants.

The first step in the fire ant control is broadcasting fire ant bait. Read the label carefully and follow all instructions. Proper application of fire ant bait should suppress about 90 percent of the ants. Either broadcast the bait across your lawn or in a four foot circle around the mound. Take precaution not to disturb the mound. When applying fire ant bait do not use a spreader that has been used for fertilizer. Also fire ants can smell smoke and gasoline so wear gloves when applying the baits.

A second treatment may be necessary seven to 10 days later. Between seven and 10 days, disturb the nest and observe. If there is any ant activity, apply a fire ant insecticide to the mound. Often liquid contact insecticides are used; however, Gardner says dusts or powders can also be sprinkled n the surface of the mound if you prefer dry treatments. “One really excellent one is orthene (acephate) which is actually packaged and sold for fire ant control,” he said. “For those colonies that might survive the bait treatment,asecondtreatment of the mound with this material is an excellent idea.”

For more information on fire ant baits or control, please call the Jones County Extension Office at 478-986-3958. Also refer to a number of fire ant publications on the UGA publications website.