Eddie Wheeler

Fire ant mounds are plentiful and that is a common problem, especially after a rain. Several people from throughout the county have asked about control measures for fire ants.

Fire ants are a problem throughout Marshall County and all of Alabama. They can affect our health, agriculture, wildlife and environment. There are no methods developed to eradicate fire ants, however, they can be managed.

An abundance of products are on the market for fire ant management, but it is sometimes difficult to decide on which one to use. There is no best method to control fire ants, it depends on the particular situation.

A two-step method is often mentioned when discussing fire ant management. The two-step method includes broadcasting a bait to get rid of most of the mounds, then follow that up in a few days by treating the most annoying mounds with an individual mound treatment. Products on the market are in the form of baits, granules, dust and drenches.

Broadcast application of fire ant baits seem to be favored as a measure to manage fire ants over a long period of time. Baits are applied at a broadcast rate of 1 to 1.5 pounds per acre. Most baits require two applications per year, one in the spring and the second in the fall. A fire ant bait is a cost effective, easy and environmentally sound method to control fire ants. A fire ant bait has three basic components, an attractant, which is soybean oil, insect control chemical (active ingredient) and a carrying particle.

The key to successful fire ant control is to eliminate the queen. Fire ant bait will not be effective unless the foraging ants take it back to the mound. Therefore it is important to broadcast the bait when the ants are actively searching for food. This is between 70 to 90 degrees F. Early morning or evening is the best time to apply baits.

When using baits, follow these recommendations to improve bait effectiveness:

  • Always use fresh bait. Old bait can become rancid and will not attract the ants.
  • Store the bait in a cool dry place in a sealed container.
  • Avoid applying bait just before rain or when the foliage is wet.
  • The mound should not be disturbed before applying the bait.
  • It is also important to calibrate the equipment for spreading the bait.

Fire ant bait takes a little longer to be effective. Baits can take two weeks to several months to reduce the number of fire ant workers. We also have a herd seeder/spreader that can be borrowed to broadcast fire ant bait. A herd seeder/spreader is used for large areas. Herd seeders can be used with a tractor, pick-up truck, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or utility vehicles.

Our office has information that can be helpful on making decisions on fire ant management.

(Eddie Wheeler works out of the Extension Service office on the ground level of the Guntersville Courthouse. He can be reached at 2560-582-2009.)

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