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Dealing with spring fire ants

With all the rain that we’ve had over the last several weeks, those red mounds are making another appearance. The heavy rainfall has been displacing the fire ants usual homes, so they have been relocating. The weather has been mild and they have been sending out their foraging ants. Just when you think it’s safe to go into the backyard you rediscover the fire ants are in action.

Fall and spring are usually the time of the year when fire ants are most active. They prefer temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees, so they don’t work up a sweat as they forage.

During the extreame heat of the summer, fire ants go deep into the soil to stay cool. The mound is actually an area for the heat to rise out of the nest. As temperatures starts to cool down, the ants move closer to the surface. This makes it much easier to take them out with a mound drench or granular product or dust. Dan Suiter says it best when “ the queen and brood are close to the surface.

According to UGA specialists, the first step is to use a broadcast fire ant bait. Amdro and Extinguish work well as baits. If your lawn is too large to spread over ever square inch, just spread it in a four foot radius around each mound. Some folks sprinkle the top of the mound with bait and wonder why it doesn’t work. Ants don’t exit from the mound top. They have lateral pathways from the base of the mound.

The way the bait works is that it tastes good enough for the foraging ants to take back to the queen but not strong enough to kill with a taste.

If they feed enough of it to the queen and the brood they will die. This should suppress about 90 percent of the fire ants.

Use a clean or dedicated fire ant bait spreader. Using a spreader that had fertilizer in it will alter the taste.  They will not eat anything contaminated with cigarette smoke or gasoline either. Dr. Suiter recommends gloves and a new spreader.

Bait products do not prevent a re-invasion from ant colonies from the neighbors or newly mated queens. Ant populations can recover in 12 to 18 months. You may have to hit them with a second treatment.

After about a week to 10 days check the mounds with a stick for ant activity.

If ants are active, prepare a contact insecticide. “Get a long stick and run it down the center of the mound” according to Dan Suiter.

It should cut through it like butter. Pull it out quickly and pour one to two gallons of the pre-mixed insecticide to fill the mound from the bottom up.

Using a dry insecticide such as Orthene (acephate) as a follow up to the bait (Andro) is called the Texas Two-Step Method and has been found to be quite effective. The worker ants will carry the powder into the mound and expose their nest mates and their food supply to the insecticide.  Texas A & M urban entomologists developed this method.

If fire ants have become a problem in your yard, fall is the best time to control them. Make sure you always follow label directions.

What’s going on in Extension?

Pancake Breakfast — only $5! Saturday, April 7 from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Ag Center. Come out and support the Troup County Cattleman’s Association. Tickets can be purchased at the extension office or from a TCCA member.

4-H Camp sign up: Junior Camp, Cloverleaf Camp, Wilderness Camp and Marine Resources camp. Call the office: (706) 883.1675

March 8: MGEV meeting at the Extension office

March 19: Beekeepers Meeting 7 PM at the Extension office

March 20: TCCA Meeting 7 p.m. Dinner $6; call for reservations (706) 443.7697 Topic: Managing Brown Stem Maggot. Dr. Lisa Baxter is our guest speaker. Program starts at 7:30 p.m.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the office.  The Troup County Extension office is located at 144 Sam Walker Drive, LaGrange, GA. 30240 (706) 883-1675. Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – noon and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.