Yes it’s true. With the return of spring so does the fire ant ride again. Them gnarly little critters have spent most of the winter down deeper in the soil, but now with it warming up they have saddled up to ride again. Fortunately now is a good time to try and stop their resurgence by applying a fire ant bait out in the landscape.
Fire ants are most active in warm weather and the warmer it gets the gnarlier they become. Controlling fire ant colonies before they produce a mound is important. And it takes two steps. Have you heard of the “Texas Two Step?” Well dandy partner, but that’s not the two step I am referring too. I am talking about the fire ant killing Texas Two Step which involves applying a granular bait followed by a liquid mound drench. Guess where this control method originated? Yep you guessed it, Texas.
Step 1: Broadcast a granular bait over the landscape or place about a ½ cup of bait around the mound, DON’T put on top of the mound. Apply the bait in late afternoon when it’s cool and the ants are actively foraging. No, don’t kick the mound with your cowboy boots.
Step 2: A week after treating with a bait, locate all active mounds and treat each mound with a liquid insecticide as a drench. You will want to pour 1 to 2 gallons of a diluted (according to the label) insecticide down through the center of each active mound. To help the insecticide make its way down through the mound, insert a 3 to 4 foot steel rod down into the mount until it will not go any further, remove the rod and pour the diluted insecticide down the hole you just created.
Just a word to the wise, make sure the rod is smooth with no ridges such as that on rebar. Also, use caution to not get bitten by fire ants. Key point, always know where your feet are in proximity to the mound.
Points to consider for sanity purposes
There is one important thing to remember and that is the difference between ‘no mounds’ and ‘no ants.’ There is a difference between eliminating ants and controlling them.
To eliminate mounds completely perform the Texas Two Step about every six months.
Baits are considered to have minimal environmental effects. Once the bait is out, there is hardly any time for anything to come in contact with it before the fire ants haul it back down into their mound.
Yes, there are non-chemical options such as using steam or boiling water. Will Hudson, UGA Entomologist recommends using boiling water to treat a mound near an area such as a water well where you do not want any chemicals”
Hudson said, “Using hot water is very effective, but the problem is you are not always able to boil the water right next to the area you want treated. Carrying the boiling water around can inflict serious burns, so extreme caution should be used when treating with boiling water.”
Hudson says to be careful when choosing a product because the labels can be confusing, even deceptive, and it is difficult to make the right choice. For assistance in selecting a product, contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension agent.
“The most important thing to remember is that you need to be realistic in your expectations,” Hudson said. “If you are treating mounds, you need to be prepared. You will more than likely chase some of the mounds around your yard.”
Keith Mickler is the County Coordinator and agriculture agent for The University of Georgia/Floyd County Cooperative Extension. Located at 12 East 4th Ave, Rome, GA 30161, 706-295-6210. Office hours are Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.