After the recent rains, you may have noticed an increase in the number of fire ant mounds in your lawn. The reason for increased fire ant activities is simple; fire ants like to work in warm soil that is not super hard and compact. For a few days after rain, even heavy clay soil is “soft” and much easier for fire ants to build mounds.
If you have lived in North Georgia long, you may remember the “good old days” when fire ants were a problem for people who lived in South Georgia.
Matter of fact, fire ants were first reported in southern Georgia only in the early 1950s.
I was recently at the University of Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station in Blairsville and observed a fire ant mound, making me believe fire ants are now found in every Georgia County.
With years of research, there is still not an end in sight for the spread of fire ants.
One of the best ways to combat fire ants is to understand their life cycle and how they spread from one area to another.
A fire ant colony consists of queens, males and workers. Most colonies have only one queen ant. The males are winged and mate with the queens. Worker ants are wingless and sterile females. Older workers forage and defend the nest while younger workers care for the developing brood.
Colonies, one year or older, will likely contain an excess of 100,000 workers.
For most part, fire ants are a “people pest” because they often occupy the same areas where we work, live and play.
Fire ants are so named because their venom induces a painful, fiery sensation.
When disturbed, fire ants are aggressive. The ant grips the skin with its jaws and stings several times in a circular pattern.
Some people who are stung experience only local reaction and temporary discomfort; but in most, a swollen red area will occur within twenty-four hours.
Reaction to fire ant stings is similar to the reaction to the stings of bees. The overwhelming majority of fire ant stings are medically uncomplicated.
But evidence shows that people who are hypersensitive to fire ants are more likely to be hypersensitive to other venomous insects.
Currently there is no single universal solution to the fire ant problem. Selection of a control option should be determined by factors such as location of mounds, number of mounds to be treated, potential for human exposure to ants, chemicals used and obviously the risk of chemical contamination.
A number of pesticides are labeled for fire ant control. Mound drenches tend to be more effective when applied early morning or late afternoon. Mound drenches should be diluted with water as instructed on product label.
Common mound drenches include Orthene TTO and Sevin wp. Products such as Amdro can be used to treat individual mounds.
Measure out the recommended amount specified on the label. Sprinkle granular products on top of and around the mound.
Dry powders such as Orthene TTO do a good job, but caution should be taken to avoid breathing the powder and contact with skin and eyes.
Broadcast formulations are used by many homeowners. Broadcast treatments, such as over ‘n’ out, are usually slower acting than products applied directly to the mound but works very well.
The key to using broadcasting fire ant baits is to apply the bait when ants are actively foraging for food.
The number of products for fire ant control is endless.
No matter what pesticide treatment you use, read and follow the chemical label instructions. Remember to never use any chemicals near a well or other water source.
For more information on fire ant control, contact the local extension office at (706) 265-2442.
Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706) 265-2442.