Q: What is the best way to control fire ants?
A: Even though it seems to be early to be talking about fire ants, but warmer weather is just around the corner. They become active when soil temperatures consistently reach 70 degrees. A good way to test if you mounds are active is to place a food such as pieces of a hotdog wiener or greasy chips on the mound and see if they come to the surface. Tackling this perennial pest is best done in a two-step method.
First, apply a broadcast application to the whole lawn. Most baits work by incorporating an insecticide with a food source. The two types of bait include insect growth regulators (IGR) and actual toxins. Products such as Amdro are toxins (slow stomach poison), while products such as Esteem are IGRs and prevent the queen from making more workers. The goal of both products is to infect the queen. Toxins typically work in one to five weeks. IGRs require a much longer period of one to four months. Some keys to broadcast application is to apply when the ants are active, do not apply if rain is forecasted within 24 hours, use fresh baits, and do not disturb the mound.
The second step is individual mound treatment 7 to 10 following broadcast treatment. Chemical and no chemical treatments can be used for this step. Sprinkling 3 to 5 tablespoons of the bait used in the broadcast treatment can be one choice. Applying a granular treatment and them watering could also be an option. Water or rain is the trigger that releases the active ingredient in most granular products. And last, less popular treatment is aerosols. Non-chemical options include Pyrethrin and products such as Greenlight and Safer. Pouring boiling water on top of the mount has shown to kill up to 60% of the mound, but can be hazardous to the lawn and the person pouring the water.
To learn more about fire ant control visit uaex.edu and search for FSA7036 or visit your local county extension office.