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Why Are Fire Ants So Abundant, Aggressive And Persistent?

Fire Ants Pest Control

Scientifically known as Solenopsisinvicta, fire ants are reddish in appearance and can be between 1.6-5mm in length. They are omnivorous insects that feed on both vegetable and meat sources of food. They typically nest in the ground. These nests can at times appear as visible mounds that are approximately 18 inches high and 61cm in diameter. They live in large colonies with either a single or multiple queens and up to 250,000 workers. Fire ants are very active and aggressive, and will sting any intruder, whether human or animal. Their stings are known to be painful to most humans and may cause adverse reactions in some.

Fire ants live in colonies in soil mounds that do not, however, have a central opening like those of other ants. They move in and out of the mound through underground tunnels. Single-queen colonies can range from 40-150 mounds per acre while multiple-queen colonies may be at least 200 mounds per acre. Their mounds can be found in any type of soil but they prefer open, sunny areas such as parks, meadows, pastures, cultivated fields and lawns. Their colonies can, however, also be located in or under buildings but they tend to keep away from shady areas such as in the woods.

fire ants pest control in san antonio

Fire Ant Control

Fire ant infestations cannot be eliminated entirely because it is difficult to cover the entire infested area, especially in large areas. The goal of fire ant pest control is to suppress their numbers as much as possible. The objective of fire ants’ pest control is to, therefore, use the most environmentally sound and cost-effective method or methods to suppress their numbers to levels you can tolerate. Many people find that using an integrated pest management program (IPM) which incorporates selective use of insecticides and biological control methods, is very effective.

Types of Control

  1. Biological Control

This involves the use of natural predators of fire ants such as the parasitic decapitating flies from South America. This control method has been tested by university researchers and the government but it is not yet available to the general public. Release programs of these predators are currently ongoing in all states with fire ant infestations. The decapitating flies will be more prevalent in the environment with time. Other biological control agents such as parasitic nematodes that are available on the retail market are not as effective because they do not spread on their own or sustain themselves once they are released.

  1. Chemical Control

Insecticides can be used in the control of fire ants but their use is controlled by the Environmental Protection Agency. When using approved chemical products, instructions must be followed according to label instructions. Before applying chemical products, do ensure that the product is appropriate for where you intend to use it. As such, you should be very careful if you intend to apply the products on a vegetable garden or a food production site. It is worth noting that some chemical products for fire ant control, such as those used in electrical utility boxes, may not be available in retail stores. Other chemical products are restricted and can only be used by professional pest control operators.

  1. Organic Products

Products with ingredients such as d-limonene from citrus oil and spinosad(a chemical complex produced by a soil microbe) are certified as organic. They are quite effective in fire ants’ pest control.

  1. Home Remedies

Drenching fire ant mounds with 2-3 gallons of almost boiling water has been found to be effective nearly 60 percent of the time. For it to be effective, the hot water has to reach and kill the queen(s) for infestation to be controlled. This method is labor intensive and time-consuming and kills plants in addition to fire ants where hot water is poured. Contamination of soil and underground water occurs when chlorine, gasoline, ammonia and diesel fuel is poured on fire ant mounds. Their use is, therefore, greatly discouraged. Remedies such as applying molasses, club soda, instant grits and aspartame to ant mounds do not work.

fire ant nest

Control Approaches

  1. The Two-step Method

This involves applying a broadcast fire ant bait once or twice a year which reduces fire ant colonies by 80-90 percent followed by treating nuisance mound or colonies that have moved into the bait-treated areas.

  • Broadcast Baits

There are two types of baits that can be applied: faster acting bait products (such as indoxacarb, hydramethylnon, and spinosad) and slower acting bait products (such as fenoxycarb, abamectin, pyriproxyfen and methoprene. The former may need often re-application compared to the latter which are longer lasting. Bait products that combine both fast- and slow-acting ingredients are the best because they act quickly but last longer.

  • Long residual Contact Insecticide Treatments

This involves the application of a contact insecticide to the landscape surface. It is more expensive than other control methods but it is highly effective in smaller areas because as long as ants move into the treated area, they will be eliminated. Faster-acting contact insecticides e.g. pyrethroids, only eliminate fire ants on the surface but may not eliminate colonies found deeper in the ground. Once granular products are applied, they must be watered in. slower-acting contact products are longer-lasting and are best if you are looking for a long-term solution.

  1. Individual Mound Treatments

Individual treatment of mounds is labor intensive and use more insecticides compared to other methods. It is, however, a suitable approach for small areas with few mounds and where you want to preserve native ants. Mound treatment agents are available as injectable aerosols, liquid drenches, or granules and dust that can be watered into the ground. If a water can is used to apply the insecticide, it should not be used for any other purpose later on. As soon as ants come into contact with these agents, they are immediately killed. Proper application is, therefore, emphasized. Individual mound treatment is mostly effective where the fire ants nest close to the mound surface such as when temperatures are mild. Once treated, colonies should not be disturbed. Faster acting baits are ideal for treating individual mounds in inaccessible colonies such as those under sidewalks or at the bases of tree trunks.

A management plan is necessary for fire ants’ pest control because chemical control only lasts until new colonies move in from untreated areas or depending on how long the pesticide effects last. Dividing your property into treatment area portions and using the most appropriate control method for each portion while maintaining a schedule for first treatment and follow-up re-treatments should help you keep the fire ants under control.

Most people who have tried diy remedies end up giving us a call to handle the problem more effectively. Our team here at Beeline Pest Control has the training and experience to treat and manage fire ants because no one wants them near their home and family. Call Beeline today at (210) 876-4566 for all your pest control needs.