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Control Fire Ants To Reduce Damage
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Peaceful walks and relaxing fishing trips can be ruined with just one wrong step in a mound of hundreds of stinging fire ants.
Mississippi, as well as several other states in the Southeast, is home to this pest that infests lawns, pastures, gardens and occasionally houses. Fire ants are a nuisance, but there are some strategies for controlling the tiny beast.
Dr. James Jarratt, extension entomology specialist at Mississippi State University, said landowners can choose from a variety of control methods.
"In and around homes, baits are good to use in May and early June," Jarratt said. Use a spreader to broadcast bait, made up of small granular particles soaked in an insecticide mixture.
"Use about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of bait per acre. It helps if there are at least 24 hours of dry weather after the bait is distributed," Jarratt said.
Jarratt said even after bait treatment has taken effect, some fire ant beds may reappear.
"During the hot, dry months of July, August and September, mound drenches are probably the best way to get rid of beds," he said.
Drenching methods involve a liquid poison mixed at the approved rate with a gallon of water. The insecticide mixture is then poured in and around fire ant mounds.
"The drench is one of the best methods to use, especially when the mounds are dry and look cracked or crusted over," the entomologist said.
Fire ant granules and powders can effectively kill the ants when sprinkled over mounds. If the mounds are very dry, adding some water before using granules or powders may help. Jarratt said these methods are generally most effective on fresh, moist fire ant mounds.
Pay close attention to the label directions on any pesticide product.
"Reading the labels is particularly important so the right amount will be used. Don't exceed the recommended rates thinking greater amounts will do a better job. You can only kill something once," he said. "Follow directions to ensure people, pets and the environment remain safe."
Jarratt suggested wearing long pants and sleeves when applying poisons to mounds to avoid letting chemicals come in direct contact with skin.
Another method for killing fire ants is pouring two or three gallons of boiling water into the middle of mounds. This method is economical and avoids adding chemicals to the ground, but it can be a lot of work when controlling several mounds at one time.
"The boiling water would pose no environmental risks besides some possible root damage to the grass around the mound. When choosing this method, people should be careful not to trip and spill the water on themselves," Jarratt said.