2018-05-16 / News

AgriLife: Spring opportune time to treat fire ants

by Justin Walker
Communications Specialist

Spring is a good time for homeowners to start treating for fire ants, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.

Spring is the time fire ants search for food and build food mounds, which makes them easier to locate and control, Dr. Allen Knutson, AgriLife Extension entomologist, said.

“It’s time now in central and southern Texas to put out baits,” he said. “But we encourage homeowners in north central Texas to wait a few weeks to begin applying baits because of our cooler soil temperatures.”

As temperatures rise, AgriLife Extension experts recommend using broadcast baits.

Knutson said the method is most effective when ants begin to forage for food. Once warmer temperatures set in, ants will seek moisture and will be less visible.

“It’s a good time to apply baits in spring as (fire ants) are generally slow acting,” Knutson said. “It typically takes two to four weeks to see results from using baits containing indoxacarb, spinosad or hydramethylnon. Starting as early as possible provides more time to enjoy summer without fire ants.”

Baits with other active ingredients could take two to six months for results, he said. These baits, however, often require fewer treatments.

Fire ant activity is ramping up, AgriLife Extension Urban Entomologist Dr. Mike Merchant said, after the cool spring weather much of the state has experienced.

“By all evidence, this should be a typical fire ant year, with fire ants becoming more active over the next month or so,” Merchant said.

He recommends treating the largest mounds with an individual mound treatment -either a liquid drench, a form of granular, nonbait, insecticide or dust.

Merchant said smaller mounds may be overlooked with this method, so broadcasting baits across the entire yard will help.

Homeowners should be advised that baits do have a limited shelf life. Merchant said. Bait products opened for more than a few months should be disposed of.

Knutson also warned homeowners not to treat use insecticides for ants unless fire ants are spotted.

“Many native ant species are beneficial in that they compete for food with fire ants and some also attack new fire ant queens as they attempt to start a new colony,” Knutson said insecticides for fire ants also kill native ants, thus only use these insecticides if fire ants are present.”

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