LSU AgCenter Launches Fire Ant Prevention Program In New Orleans Area

Linda Hooper-Bui, Wiltz, Beverly, Womack, Lee, Pollet, Dale K., Benedict, Linda F.  |  5/12/2006 2:27:06 AM

LSU AgCenter entomologist Dr. Linda Hooper-Bui checks for signs of fire ants making a resurgence in New Orleans.

Fire ants crawl along a wall on the Bayou St. John Levee in New Orleans.

LSU AgCenter entomologist Dr. Dale Pollet looks for fire ants near the Bayou St. John Levee in New Orleans.

News Release Distributed 05/11/06

NEW ORLEANS – The LSU AgCenter Thursday (May 11) announced the launch of a major effort to stop the surge of fire ants in the Greater New Orleans area.

Called "FAST (Fire Ant Surge Threat) Prevention," the program involves spreading fire ant control products throughout the public areas in New Orleans and encouraging private landowners in both Orleans and St. Bernard parishes to do the same.

"The unique circumstances following Hurricane Katrina make it possible for us to severely curtail the repopulation of fire ants in the Greater New Orleans area," said Dr. David Boethel, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for research. "Without intervention now, the fire ant populations could return to previous levels or become an even worse problem than before the hurricane.

"LSU AgCenter research has shown that areawide management programs, like the FAST program, have been successful."

Dr. Linda Hooper-Búi, an LSU AgCenter entomologist who specializes in fire ant research, has been leading a research team monitoring the fire ant situation in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes since the floods receded. The team has found large areas with only a few or no fire ants in Chalmette, Arabi, lower Plaquemines Parish, the Lower Ninth Ward, the Upper Ninth Ward, New Orleans East and parts of Gentilly and Lakeview.

"In adjacent areas where there was little or no flooding, relatively high populations of fire ants still exist," Hooper-Búi said. "For the most part, the fire ants are where the people are."

From these areas, both the native ants and invasive fire ants can re-colonize the once-flooded neighborhoods. Fire ants have the advantage, however, because they are much more aggressive and can out-compete native ants for food.

"We don’t want to get rid of the native ants," Hooper-Búi said. "They are necessary for ecological balance."

Timing is critical to the success of the FAST Prevention program, because the time period during May and June is when the fire ants will reproduce in New Orleans.

"They’re delayed in the New Orleans area, we think, because of the floods," Hooper-Búi said. "The fire ants already have begun their mating flights in Baton Rouge."

Hooper-Búi is using a product called Esteem, a growth regulator donated by Valent, to blanket the nearly 2,500 acres of public lands and green space.

The fire ant workers are attracted to the bait and carry it back to the colony to feed the queen and the young ones. The product renders them sterile and by attrition, they disappear, said Dr. Dale Pollet, LSU AgCenter entomologist.

"You can see the suppression within three to four weeks," Hooper-Búi said.

Teams from the LSU AgCenter and the City of New Orleans Mosquito and Termite Control Board began spreading the bait Thursday (May 11) using trucks and four-wheelers equipped with Herd spreaders. They plan to complete the public areas and green spaces within a couple of weeks.

That’s the first of the three parts to FAST Prevention, Hooper-Búi said. The second portion involves working with neighborhood associations to spread bait, and the third encourages individual homeowners, as they move back to New Orleans, to treat their lawns and property.

Staff from the New Orleans control board will begin contacting neighborhood associations and communities to encourage their use of fire ant control products, said Dr. Claudia Riegel, control board assistant director.

"We’re working with the leaders of neighborhood associations to distribute the donated products," Riegel said.

Hooper-Búi has received donations of Amdro, a bait made by Excel, and Over ‘n Out, a contact insecticide from the GardenTech company, for use in neighborhoods in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes.

"All of these products are safe as long as the label instructions are followed," Pollet said. "They pose no threat to kids playing in the yard or dogs and cats. In fact, the same ingredients used in Over ‘n Out are used in flea control."

Pollet said Esteem bait is exactly the same thing as a product called Distance – if people want to purchase it at the store.

The community leaders will be in charge of distributing the bait in their respective locales, and that should take place over the next few weeks, Hooper-Búi said.

People moving back into the two parishes who are not part of a neighborhood association or whose association no longer exists may contact either Riegel’s agency or Hooper-Búi’s office to receive free bait. The contact information is as follows:

–In the metropolitan New Orleans area, contact the control board by calling 311 or e-mailing NOMTCB@yahoo.com.

–Outside of the metropolitan New Orleans area but within the two parishes, contact the LSU AgCenter at (504) 838-1170 or e-mailing fireants@agcenter.lsu.edu.

Hooper-Búi said her research team will continue to monitor progress of the FAST Prevention program as part of a research project. In about a year, the neighborhoods and public areas will again need to be treated to sustain the suppression of the fire ants.

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Contacts:
Linda Hooper-Búi at (225) 578-1832 or lhooper@agcenter.lsu.edu
Beverly Wiltz at (225) 578-7238 or bwiltz@agcenter.lsu.edu
Lee Womack at (225) 578-7238 or lwomack@agcenter.lsu.edu
Dale Pollet at (225) 578- 2370 or dpollet@agcenter.lsu.edu
Claudia Riegel at (504) 415-7068 or criegel@cityofno.com
Writer:
Linda Foster Benedict at (225) 578-2937, (225) 281-0834 or lbenedict@agcenter.lsu.edu

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