Fire ants can be a huge nuisance, and not just to your picnic. Neighborhoods battle them, they are an eyesore on golf courses, and they can dramatically reduce populations of wildlife species. Fire ants have a resiliency factor to them. Recently, Hurricane Harvey’s destruction on Texas displaced both people and animals, yet somehow, fire ants managed to survive. Contrary to popular belief, floodwaters do not drown fire ants. Their colonies disperse from the soil, form a ball and float until they find a dry area illustrating their keen survival instinct.
Fire Ants can survive extreme drought in Texas often thriving in 70-95 degree temperatures and can withstand cold winters by burrowing down deep into the soil while drinking groundwater to survive. Have you ever wondered why after it rains you start to notice mounds everywhere? In reality, the mounds were always there. The soil becomes saturated resulting in the colonies moving to higher ground thus giving off the illusion there are more ants after it rains compared to when it was dry outside.
Red imported fire ants (RIFA) are invasive species, and their bites can harm livestock, wildlife, and humans. Their large mounds can even damage electrical equipment requiring costly repairs.
So, how do we fight these despicable creatures?
There are two effective means of fire ant control: broadcast pesticides or bait. The use of pesticides for fire ant control is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Products must be used according to label directions. Be sure to read the label carefully. An approved product is one that has directions for fire ant control directly on the label. Failing to apply fire ant pesticides correctly can disrupt our waters or harm the environment.
Here are some preventative measures for fire ant control:
Many people opt for applying boiling water to fire ant mounds in their gardens, but this practice can quickly backfire as you may end up killing vegetable roots or. Worse yet, using pesticides in an edible garden could cause you to consume tainted vegetables. Always be sure to buy a pesticide that clearly indicates it can be used on vegetables.
Granular products can be expensive but are also more effective in smaller areas like front yards. Using a push fertilizer spreader is recommended and can help cover more ground. When using broadcast pesticide on mounds, worker ants aid in the elimination process, mistaking granules for food and carrying it down into the mound to share with the colony, eliminating them over time.
Though broadcast pesticide may seem thorough, bait is preferable. Spreading with granular products are often ineffective, being washed away during rain events, and polluting the local waterways. Utilizing bait involves putting less pesticide out into the environment yet providing better end results.
By taking special precautions when using fire ant bait or pesticide, you can help protect our lakes, rivers, and oceans all while reducing the ant populations. For more information on fire ants click here or here.