Linda Hooper-Bui | 3/18/2006 5:07:57 AM
News Release Distributed 03/17/06
Floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the surrounding area suppressed fire ants in some areas and eradicated them in others, according to experts from the LSU AgCenter.
As families move back into the devastated areas, they’re offered a unique opportunity – a red-imported-fire-ant-free landscape, said Dr. Linda Bui, an entomologist with the LSU AgCenter.
In the aftermath of the flooding that resulted from storm surge and breached levees, Dr. Beverly Wiltz, an LSU AgCenter researcher, has been mapping fire-ant-free areas and monitoring the recolonization of all ant species in the New Orleans area since the waters receded.
"Large areas of Chalmette, Arabi, Lower and Upper Ninth Ward and New Orleans East and parts of Gentilly and Lakeview are fire-ant-free," Wiltz said. "In other areas, fire ants are suppressed."
The LSU AgCenter experts said spring and summer are important times for dealing with fire ants and trying to prevent them from spreading.
"Fire ants will begin splitting colonies, embarking on mating flights, reproducing and trying to recolonize these areas of New Orleans," Bui said. "But with a little effort and community involvement, we can keep these destructive creatures suppressed and possibly absent from our parks, historic areas, homes and lawns."
Bui said fire ants begin to forage heavily as temperatures reach approximately 70 degrees. With area-wide cooperation among property owners, neighborhoods and cities, broadcast treatments using granular bait will allow continued suppression of fire ants in the New Orleans area and allow native – good – ants to recolonize, she said.
"If fire ants are allowed to reinvade unchecked, there is a possibility that they will be the ‘only ant in town’ and escalate to higher numbers than they ever were before," Bui said.
The LSU AgCenter entomologist said commercial baits – which can be purchased at most home improvement, lawn and garden and hardware stores – provide an environmentally friendly, cost-effective and efficient means of controlling fire ants.
Based on LSU AgCenter research, broadcasting baits such as Amdro with a handheld spreader (at a rate of approximately 2 tablespoons per 1,000 square feet when using Amdro) around dusk provides effective treatment. Follow label directions for the recommended rate to broadcast whatever bait you choose, experts say.
"Fire ant foragers will actively forage for the bait, return to the nest and feed it to the queen, ultimately killing the colony," Bui said. "Homeowners don’t need to find the colonies to be successful."
Bui said neighbors who work together and treat larger areas than individual lots have a better chance of keeping the stinging ants out of their neighborhoods.
"Let’s band together and keep this pest species under our control instead of out of our control," she said.