By Steve Borel
Fall is perfect for playing football, picking pumpkins and killing fire ants. Tackling the stinging pests now will cut down on the number you encounter next spring and summer. When fire ants sting, they release toxins that cause blisters, prolonged agony and even possible allergic reactions.
Treat in the fall
Fire ant colonies reach their peak in the fall having grown throughout the summer months. The ants tend to be most active in the spring and fall, when daytime temperatures are between 70 and 85 degrees. In the fall, they spend a lot of time foraging for food. Actively foraging ants will pick up bait and carry it into the nest within the first hour or two. Another reason to treat the pests in the fall is their location. The ants aren’t too deep in the ground and this makes it easier to kill with a mound-drench, granular or dust. When using these products it’s critical to treat when the queen and brood are close to the surface.
LSU specialists recommend treating fire ants by first broadcasting a fire ant bait. Follow the product label carefully. When properly applied, this should suppress about 90 percent of the ants. Apply the bait either across the home lawn or in a 4-foot circle around each fire ant mound. Use care not to disturb the mounds. Some of these baits include Amdro, Over and out, Extinguish, Bayer advanced and Ortho fire ant killer. There are others that also work for a complete list you can contact me at either the WBR office at 336-2416 or the Iberville office at 687-5155.
Fire ants can smell smoke
Never apply bait using a spreader that’s been used to spread fertilizer. The bait’s scent can be altered by the fertilizer residue. If you smoke and get smoke smell on the bait, the ants won’t touch it. Or if you have gasoline on your hands, the ants won’t touch it. Wear gloves and use only a new spreader dedicated to treating fire ants. Bait products do not protect against reinvasion by ant colonies from surrounding land or by newly mated queens. Ant populations can fully recover within 12 to 18 months of the last bait treatment. Low-lying, moist and flood-prone areas are more prone to reinfestation.
Hit them with a second treatment
After a week to 10 days, kick the ant mounds or poke them with a stick and step back quickly. If there is any ant activity, apply a contact insecticide to target the mounds. Get a long stick and run it down through the center of the mound. It should push like a hot knife through butter. Pull the stick out quickly and pour in the premixed insecticide. Be prepared to pour the insecticide quickly as the ants will scatter once the mound is disturbed. A premixed gallon or two of insecticide should fill the mound from the bottom up. Dusts or powders can also be sprinkled on 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.