When it comes to fire ants, Dale Pollet, Louisiana State University (LSU) AgCenter entomologist, says the best months to start a control program are April and October.

Pollet says ants are attracted to electrical fields, causing them to nest in electrical components, including pump motors, junction boxes and air conditioning units. They’ve also been known to nest in light sockets on airport runways, causing a damaging short circuit.

He said investing in growth regulators to control fire ants can save an ag producer money in the long run. For example, a north Louisiana hay producer has saved money that would have been spent on equipment repairs by treating fire ants.

Pollet says quick control can be achieved with contact chemicals Orthene or Over and Out with Indoxicarb.

Baits such as Amdro are perceived to be food by ants, but they contain an insecticide. Application must be made when ants are looking for food. That can be determined by placing an oily food item, such as a potato chip or a hot dog chunk, on the ground for about 30 minutes. If a large number of ants are found, a broadcast application can be made.

“But the bait won’t work if it becomes wet,” he cautions.

Growth regulators such as Extinguish and Esteem are also baits, but they sterilize the ants, he says. Growth regulators take several weeks to become effective but result in the death of a nest. They pose no risk to pets or other animals, and don’t have to be applied to an entire yard or field to be effective. Because of the foraging activity of the ants, the growth regulators can be applied in strips.

Pollet says some control is possible by using liquid soap at the ratio of 1 cup/1 gal. of water/mound. The soap prevents ants from maintaining proper body temperature.

On the bio-control front, researchers have introduced the phorid fly, a natural enemy of the fire ant, in Louisiana, he says. But these predators only lower the populations because the queen is unaffected.

Even when chemical controls work, they probably will have to be applied in the future because queens can fly to new locations and start a colony after each rain.

No system, he says, will eliminate fire ants completely, he adds.

Pollet advises to always read the label before purchase (to ensure it’s the appropriate product) and before applying to ensure proper use, application and timing. Contact your local Extension agent for advice.

For more info, visit www.lsuagcenter.com and search for Fire Ants.
-- Delta Farm Press