The time for fire ants control is now

The winged “reproductive” fire ants have been reported flying or swarming out of mounds recently in Jefferson County, which indicates the best time to treat areas with a bait product containing an “insect growth regulator” (IGR) is at hand, an official said.

“We will see better control if these products are used when ants are actively feeding, after the bulk of Spring mating flights have been completed,” said Dennis Bailey, Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service agent-staff chair. “Otherwise the products, which have a short life after application, will allow the neighbor’s ants to re-infest your area and you will think the product did not work.”

Fire ants are very intelligent, so do not disturb the mounds as you spread the baits as evenly as possible according to the label. They will move the queen and not feed your bait if disturbed. Do not worry if you have trouble spreading a low rate, such as one-two pounds per acre, because worker fire ants feed up to 50-100 feet from their colony. They will carry the bait down and feed the queens and the colony will slowly die out completely over about three weeks as no new re-enforcements are able to become workers.

Use a few potato chips or pieces of a hotdog to verify if ants are active after the dew dries in the morning. Remember many chemicals available today will break down in a short time exposed to wind, water or sunlight. Treating fire ants in this manner twice per year in spring and fall will achieve almost 100% control with occasional skips that can be spot treated. If you have a critical area you can knock down a colony on top with other products, but make sure queens have been fed the IGR containing product first a few days in advance.

An example of a product containing the methoprene(IGR) is called “Extinguish Plus” and costs about $15/acre twice per year. Long term control is also possible with a product such as “Over and Out” and can be applied anytime. However, the cost will be higher at around $120/acre if you follow the label as prescribed for any chemical.

“Almost any insecticide will kill the ants, but complete control is another matter when you have an intelligent insect imported from South America with few natural predators, such as Red Imported Fire Ants,” Bailey said.

If you have questions about fire ants or the dozens of products on the market, just call the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service office at 534-1033 or visit the office at 500 Idaho St.

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