Let’s Get Neighborly

Linda Benedict  |  6/2/2005 1:03:55 AM

When individual homeowners try to get rid of the red imported fire ant, all they really do is move the mounds around their own yard or send them to the neighbor’s.

That’s why Dale Pollet, LSU AgCenter entomologist, is promoting a plan in which city dwellers band together by neighborhood to control the spread of this troublesome pest.

Called “Put the Fire Out,” the plan involves a two-step treatment method that costs less and is more effective than when people work alone. The plan requires somebody to take the lead. This can be an existing neighborhood association or some type of committee formed for this purpose. This person or group can buy the bait in bulk at far cheaper prices than when purchased in small quantities.

“It helps if everyone in the neighborhood agrees to cooperate,” Pollet said.

The two-step plan involves areawide treatments in the spring and fall followed by treatments of individual mounds as they arise.

“To maintain control, neighborhoods may have to repeat the areawide treatment yearly,” Pollet said.

Here’s how the plan works:

Inform the neighborhood residents of the date for treatment. Be sure to include an alternate date in case of rain.

Decide how the bait should be distributed. A central location where residents can pick up the bait on the designated date is effective. Block captains also can be used to distribute bait. They can check to see if everyone on the block treats.

“Don’t worry if a few residents refuse to participate. Their ants will feed on bait in neighboring yards,” Pollet said.

Distribute the bait according to size of property. Residents will need to provide measurements. If possible or necessary, borrow spreaders that residents can return when done.

Broadcast the bait on all areas of the property, including sidewalks. Treat individual mounds with about 3 to 5 tablespoons of bait.

“More is not better with these baits. Follow the directions,” Pollet said, adding that it is important not to disturb the mound when applying the bait because this may cause the ants to move before they eat it.

Rest assured, however, that even the best of plans will not rid Louisiana of the red imported fire ant. Rather, the goal is to keep their populations down to economically acceptable levels.

“The red imported fire ant is here to stay,” Pollet said.

Though a pest, fire ants can be beneficial. They feed on insects including ticks, fleas and termites. Louisiana sugarcane farmers like that they eat the sugarcane borer, the No. 1 insect pest of that crop. This can reduce their need for one or two pesticide applications.

More information may be obtained on organizing a “Put the Fire Out” campaign by contacting local parish LSU AgCenter extension offices or by visiting the website: www.lsuagcenter.com/fireants.

Linda Foster Benedict

(This article appeared in the spring 2001 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

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