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Fire Ant Control In Commercial Fruits, Nuts and Vegetables

Fire ants are serious pests in commercial fruits, nuts, and vegetables, where they can cause a wide range of problems.  Not only do they sting field workers and interfere with harvest and other hand labor operations, they also cause direct damage to crops such as okra or potatoes, and sometimes damage young trees by chewing through tender bark.  Fire ants especially like to nest beneath plastic row covers in the winter and spring because of the increased warmth and protection they provide.  Fire ants sometimes chew through irrigation tubing and cause damage to other equipment, either due to physical damage cause by their mounds, or by causing shorts in irrigation timers and other electrical equipment.  Fire ants are especially unwelcomed in pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farms because of their ability to turn an enjoyable family experience into a, still memorable but far less pleasant experience that may make clients less likely to plan return visits.

Granular baits can be used to control fire ants, but only a few baits are labeled for use around food crops—be sure you use a bait that is. Baits work well, but they work slowly, so it is important to apply them preventively. See Extension Publication 2494, Control Fire Ants in Commercial Fruits, Nuts, and Vegetables for recommended bait treatments and how to apply them. Read the section on Fire Ant Biology to learn more about how and why baits work.

Contact information for Dr. Blake Layton.

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The base of trees is covered by a fire ant mound.
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Portrait of Dr. Blake Layton, Jr.
Extension Professor