Patricia A. Beckley, Merrill, Thomas A., Pollet, Dale K. | 4/19/2005 10:29:14 PM
Want to reduce the number of fire ant mounds in your yard? The key is to stop chasing them around your neighborhood, according to experts with the LSU AgCenter.
Those experts say the best method of controlling red imported fire ants is to get together with your neighbors and broadcast baits that will reduce the fire ant population across your whole neighborhood. And they say the fall is one of the best times to accomplish this task.
"What we’ve learned is that whole neighborhood treatments work best at controlling fire ants," says LSU AgCenter entomology associate Patricia Beckley. "In fact, we’ve basically stopped recommending mound treatments all together – except in cases where fire ants cannot be tolerated at all, such as day care centers, schools, high-traffic public parks, nursing homes and hospitals."
Unlike mound treatments with poisons, which had been the traditional way of dealing with fire ants for many years, broadcasting baits over the entire yard shows more success, according to LSU AgCenter studies.
The baits basically look like food to the ants, who take them back to the mound and feed them to others – including the queen. Those baits can be either poisons that kill the ants immediately or growth regulators that reduce their ability to reproduce and kill the colony that way over time.
While baits now are the preferred method for treating your yard, broadcasting baits over an entire neighborhood has proven to be an even better method.
"We’ve been demonstrating the success of neighborhood fire ant treatment for more than five years now," says LSU AgCenter entomologist Dr. Dale Pollet. "And what we’ve seen is remarkably greater success in controlling ants when a whole neighborhood is treated at once."
Across the state, neighbors have banded together in the spring and fall to test the neighborhood treatment method, and time and time again, they’ve found that ants haven’t returned to their yards months later, the LSU AgCenter experts say.
"It’s relatively easy to organize your own neighborhood program – particularly if you have a neighborhood association or another existing way to get your neighbors together for the project," Beckley says. "Of course, you also can simply go door-to-door to talk to people about it, or you can send notes to all of your neighbors.
"We’re happy to provide sample letters and information on how to obtain the supplies you need. You just need to get your neighbors organized and ready to accomplish this project on the same weekend. Then get your bait and distribute it to everyone."
Beckley says various baits can be ordered in bulk through a distributor or through a local feed store, cooperative, nursery or hardware store that carries pesticides. Then those baits can be spread – at rates indicated on their labels – using lawn spreaders that most homeowners already have.
Among the insect growth regulator baits available are Award, Logic Extinguish, Distance and Spectracide Fire Ant Bait. Slow-acting toxicants, or poisons, include Amdro, Ascend, Clinch, Eliminator Fire Ant Killer and Pennkill Fire Ant Killer.
"Even if you can’t get your whole neighborhood to participate, you still could get several neighbors to participate," Beckley says. "Just remember that the larger the area you treat, the better the results you’ll see."
In addition to providing better control of fire ants, neighborhood treatment programs also have other benefits, the experts say.
"Community efforts don’t just help to stop new fire ant colonies from forming, they also save homeowners money on treatment and reduce the amount of pesticides used – since they have to be accomplished only in the fall and spring," Pollet says.
The experts point out that insect growth regulator baits do not contain poisons and will not harm humans or animals, so they are the safest for the environment.
But whatever type of bait you choose, Pollet and Beckley say always use a product that is fresh.
"Don’t buy more than you need at any one time," Beckley says. "And be careful not to get it wet – which means to allow a day or so on either side of a big rain."
The LSU AgCenter experts also caution you should always carefully read and follow the label directions with any product you use.
For more information on neighborhood fire ant treatment or a variety of other home lawn and garden topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension Service office or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.