Ant Issues Vol. 4: Fire Ant Bait

Patricia A. Beckley, Pollet, Dale K.  |  11/29/2006 8:02:42 PM

Which Fire Ant Bait is Best?

All fire ant baits work very well when applied according to the label instructions. The key to using baits is patience. Applied properly and using a fresh bait product, a broadcast application will give 80% to 95% control. Choose a bait based on cost of the bait, how soon you need to have fire ant control and how long you want to wait between bait applications.

The way a fire ant bait works depends on the active ingredient in the bait. Some baits contain an insecticide that kills all ants that ingest a sufficient dose, including the workers and the queen. Baits with an insect growth regulator or similar compound reduce the production of viable eggs. They do not kill the queen or the adult workers. They may prevent the immature fire ants from developing. The colony dies of natural causes, the queen starves from not being fed, and no new ants are developing

Each fire ant bait acts somewhat differently, so read the label to determine the right way to apply each product and to determine how much to use. Currently, eight insect control chemicals are used in fire ant baits: Abamectin, fenoxycarb, fipronil, hydramethylnon, indoxacarb, s-methoprene, pyriproxyfen and spinosad.

Hydramethylnon -- sold as Amdro, Amdro Pro, Amdro Fire Ant Bait Yard Treatment, Maxforce Fire Ant Killer Granular Bait, Probait -- Siege Pro and spinosad -- sold as Fertilome Come and Get it, Ortho Fire Ant Killer Bait Granules, Penn-Kill Fire Ant Killer Bait, Southern Ag Payback Fire Ant Bait, and Green Light Fire Ant Control with Conserve -- are insecticide-based baits. You will see results from broadcast applications in two to three weeks.

Ceasefire contains the insecticide fipronil. Fire ant workers begin to die in about two weeks, but it can take 4-6 weeks for control of all the ants.

Spectracide Fire Ant Killer Plus Preventer Once & Done and Advion contain the active ingredient indoxacarb. Indoxacarb-based baits are fast acting and control fire ants within a few days.

The other four baits act primarily as insect growth regulators when they are broadcast. They are abamectin,  sold under the trade names of Ascend, Advance 375 A Fire Ant Bait, and Varsity; fenoxycarb, sold as Award and Hi-Yield Logic; s-methoprene, sold as Extinguish; and pyriproxyfen, sold as Distance and Esteem. These materials act quickly to prevent new fire ants from developing, but it takes longer for the existing workers to die. Results from broadcast applications of fenoxycarb, abamectin and pyriproxyfen can be seen in six to eight weeks. S-methoprene takes a bit longer, from 8-12 weeks.

Insecticide-based baits usually provide several months of control. Insect growth regulators usually provide 6-12 months of control. It all depends on how soon new fire ant queens re-invade the area.

The two types of baits can be mixed together at half rates to provide faster control than occurs with an insect growth regulator yet longer-lasting control than occurs with an insecticide-based bait. Extinguish Plus is a commercially available mix of hydramethylnon and s-methoprene.

The following baits are available for use by homeowners (trade names change frequently, so there are probably other bait products not in this list): Advance 375 A Fire Ant Bait, Amdro, Amdro Pro, Amdro Fire Ant Bait Yard Treatment, Ascend, Award, Distance, Extinguish, Extinguish Plus, Fertilome Come and Get it, Green Light Fire Ant Control with Conserve, Hi-Yield Logic, Maxforce Fire Ant Killer Granular Bait, Ortho Fire Ant Killer Bait Granules, Penn-Kill Fire Ant Killer Bait, Southern Ag Payback Fire Ant Bait, Spectracide Fire Ant Killer Plus Preventer, Varsity. If you are having trouble finding a fire ant bait, try looking at big-box stores, hardware stores, home and garden centers, home improvement stores, farmer's coops, pesticide distributors and do-it-yourself pest control stores. Other products can be applied to home lawns by professional applicators.

Amdro Pro, Siege Pro, Esteem and Extinguish can be applied to active cattle pastures and hay fields.

Extinguish can be used on most cropland and vegetable plots. Green Light Fire Ant Control with Conserve can be used on home garden plots, provided they are less than 1 acre. Esteem can be used by commercial growers in many tree fruits and nut orchards, as well as in certain vegetable and fruit crops.

The most effective way to apply bait is to broadcast it. Small areas can be broadcast using a handheld seed spreader. Treat larger areas using seeders with a larger hopper and a wider swath width.

Fire ant bait has three ingredients. The insect control chemical (called the active ingredient) is dissolved in soybean oil, which attracts the ants. The oil is absorbed onto a corn-based carrier, allowing the bait to be easily spread. Fire ant workers quickly pick up the bait, moving the active ingredient into the fire ant colony and away from other organisms. Fire ant baits are considered to be very safe for the environment because they contain such a tiny amount of active ingredient. The ants extract the toxicant-laden oil and feed it to other members of the colony. Because the active ingredient is slow-acting, there is ample time for the material to be fed to the queen. Baits are the most effective method to keep the queen, the heart of the colony, from reproducing. Baits also effectively treat mounds not large enough to be seen.

For more information see Broadcast Baits for Fire Ant Control.

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