Dale K. Pollet, Coolman, Denise, White, Eddie D. | 4/26/2005 8:28:24 PM
JONESBORO – The LSU AgCenter is working with Louisiana poultry producers to help them reduce the economic damage caused by fire ants.
Those efforts are part of an overall program designed to help citizens try to banish the pests from parks, lawns and other areas where people or animals may be affected.
One example of the work with poultry producers is in Jackson Parish, where LSU AgCenter county agent Eddie White has been working with producers on a variety of tests concerning products to use to fight the ants.
Billie Gaines is one poultry producer who said the products being tested seem to be working. Tests have been done at Gaines’ operation since April 2003.
"It’s unbelievable," said Gaines, who has been raising poultry for about 25 years. "When we started, one house had 70 (fire ant) mounds, and another house had 90 mounds. About six weeks after the product was put out, the number of mounds went to almost zero."
Fire ants in poultry houses can pose economic threats to producers, Gaines said, explaining that the ants can affect the health and growth of the animals, as well as create a variety of other problems.
"Before we started treatments, the birds couldn’t get to the sides of the houses because of the ants," he said. "They would crowd in the middle to get away from the ants. I was losing birds because of this. They would smother, or they wouldn’t grow because they couldn’t reach the feeders and waterers."
In addition to causing the birds to crowd, the ants would collect on dead birds in the houses and make it difficult for producers to remove the dead birds.
The fire ants also were causing problems by getting into the electric circuits and breakers to the houses.
"The ant population just kept building and building," Gaines said. "I was having to replace electric breakers, because fire ants would get in them and mess them up."
Before he started working with the LSU AgCenter’s experts, Gaines said he would go to the store, buy fire ant spray and spray his houses.
"It maybe would’ve knocked them out for a day or two," he said, "But then they would be right back."
Then the LSU AgCenter came in. Dr. Dale Pollet, an LSU AgCenter entomologist, said one product being tested is a growth regulator.
"This sterilizes the queen and stops reproduction," Pollet said. "Because of this, the mound gradually dies."
It takes about six to seven weeks for the product to work, he said.
In the tests the LSU AgCenter is conducting, each poultry house is treated along its perimeter with a product to kill existing ant populations within 10 feet of the house. Then, a growth-regulating product is broadcast over the entire acreage of the farm to achieve long-term control.
In addition to controlling fire ants in poultry houses, the products also can be used on lawns and other areas where the people or animals may be.
Consequently, the LSU AgCenter’s tests extend well beyond those involving poultry producers. Experts across the state are working with local officials and neighborhood residents to orchestrate efforts to reduce the population of red imported fire ants.
For example, White said town officials in Jonesboro heard about the work with Jackson Parish poultry producers and wanted to start similar programs in areas where they wanted to "get rid of fire ants."
"These included places such as parks, right of ways and places like that," White said. "We provided them with information on the product and a spreader to put it out with."
But Jonesboro was far from the first area to consider such work.
The LSU AgCenter was involved in instituting and studying a number of neighborhood efforts to control fire ants. And those efforts, which started in the late 1990s in Baton Rouge’s Spanish Town, now have spread across the state.
"We have neighborhoods where people go together and buy a bag (of the product) to use on lawns and other places," Pollet said. "This keeps individual costs down and everyone benefits."
The neighborhood programs – when coordinated where residents all try to apply the material at the same time – also keep them from simply chasing the fire ants from one yard to the next, Pollet said.
For more information on fire ant control or on a variety of topics ranging from agriculture and natural resources to community life and economic development, visit www.lsuagcenter.com.