People setting up temporary or semi-permanent living quarters or offices such as tents or mobile homes on vacant land following Hurricane Katrina need to be cautious about red imported fire ants.
"The number of fire ants depends on how the land has been used," said Dr. Linda Hooper-Bui, LSU AgCenter entomologist. If temporary housing or staging areas are on land that had been pastures or hay, chances are good that large populations of fire ants will be there.
"I wouldn’t put a tent in some of those places," Hooper-Bui said. "Sleeping on the ground, or even on cots in tents with floors, could be inviting fire ant problems."
Red imported fire ant bites can cause allergic reactions in many people and severe allergic reactions for some people.
Hooper-Bui said electric cords or other electric devices such as switch boxes and air conditioners on the ground may attract fire ants.
For large areas of several acres or more, Hooper-Bui recommends treating with chemicals for fire ant management.
"If you have advance warning – two weeks or so – you can treat with a bait broadcast over a large area," the entomologist said.
She recommends broadcasting Amdro or other fast-acting bait that will suppress fire ants within two weeks. Following that, she recommends regular treatment of problem fire ant mounds with a contact insecticide.
If you need control immediately, Hooper-Bui recommends treating with a broadcast application of a granular contact insecticide such as Talstar, Deltaguard or a similar product.
Hooper-Bui said baits such as Amdro will be effective in suppressing large fire ant populations after about two weeks and will maintain control for about three months. If a longer term is anticipated, such as for temporary housing, she suggests broadcasting a product such as Over ’n Out, a granular contact insecticide that works slowly but will provide long-term fire ant suppression for a full season and perhaps as long as a year.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture