Writer: D'Lyn Ford
Las Cruces -- Fall is the ideal time for homeowners to start their war against fire ants if they want to win the battle by next spring, said an entomologist with New Mexico State University.
"Ants are still foraging and weather conditions allow New Mexicans to apply bait when no rain is expected for several days after treatment," said Carol Sutherland with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service .
A fire ant management program can minimize treatment of individual mounds in yards and also can be suitable for pasture and rangelands provided the products selected are specifically registered for use in these sites, she said.
"People who use a good long-term suppression product during the fall will probably have less problems with ants next spring," Sutherland said. "The idea is to work on ornamental turf and nonagricultural land, including roadsides that may have some fire ants."
A variety of bait products are available. Be sure to follow package directions, Sutherland advised.
How fast and how long ants are suppressed varies from product to product. Some of the bait products on the market are slow-acting and suppression reaches a a maximum four to nine months after treatment, depending on the environmental conditions. These products are good choices for fire ant control, since they either kill or sterilize the queen, she said.
Bait applications should be repeated whenever ants reinvade the area and mound numbers reach about 20 to 30 per acre. The bait products do not stop reinvasion by ant colonies from surrounding areas or newly mated queens. Ant populations can fully recover within 12 to 18 months of the last treatment.
"You must remember that using more of bait does not eliminate colonies faster or longer," Sutherland said.
People who have fire ants on property that is near high- traffic areas should wait several days after the bait is applied to allow the ants to eat as much as possible. If nuisance ant colonies persist, then an individual mound treatment, such as those used on colonies found around sidewalks or play areas, should be followed.
"You have to be patient and wait for the ant treatment to work," she said. "Any nuisance mounds that escape the effects of the bait or colonies that migrate into treated areas should be treated later."
Low-lying, flood prone areas are more susceptible to reinfestation. In this part of the country areas that are irrigated regularly are areas to watch, Sutherland said.
"Now is a good time to treat fire ants before winter weather approaches and ant activity is more subdued or ceases for the year," she said.
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