Friday, September 21, 2018

Rain = Fire Ants!

In Texas, after a good, soaking rain, we can always expect to see fire ant mounds popping up all over our lawns.  Where were those mounds before?  They were there, just underground and inconspicuous.

Rain is good for many reasons, but one you may not realize is that it helps us see fire ants, gets them active above the soil, and makes them more likely to pick up fire ant baits!

I love using baits to manage fire ants.  They are more host specific, attracting fire ants better than other insects.  Baits (when applied according to the label) usually mean less pesticide out in our environment... and the fire ants like it, so they pick it, gobble it down, and close their eyes forever.

Here are some tips to remember when you are applying the baits:

  1. Make sure the ground is dry and rain is not in the forecast within a 48 hour window.  Just like you don't like to eat wet bread, fire ants don't want to pick up wet bait.  NEVER WATER BAIT IN.
  2. Apply according to the label.  Figure your square footage and apply the proper amount, especially if broadcasting the bait over the yard.  Don't over apply, that can actually make the fire ants avoid the bait.  If in doubt, apply less.
  3. If treating individual mounds (and this is easy when they are visible),  sprinkle the bait around the mound, not on top.  On the mound is not where the foragers are looking for food.  Instead, the bait may be treated as an intruder or trash.
  4. BE PATIENT!  Baits can take up to two weeks to work.  There is a method to this madness... baits aren't eaten by the adult ants (workers and queens).  Larvae eat the bait, partially digest it, regurgitate it, and that it fed to the workers and queens.  And the queens feeding is most important.  Otherwise, you just kill some workers, but she's laying up to 2,000 eggs a day to replace them!
Fall is the fantastic time to do the Texas Two Step Method of Fire Ant Management.  Start with a broadcast bait and then come back for those stubborn mounds with an individual mound treatment.  This is an integrated pest management tactic, decades of proven results in the field and research trials, and uses less pesticide that treating each mound you see with liquid pesticides. 

For more information on the Texas Two Step, visit: 

https://fireant.tamu.edu/controlmethods/twostep/

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