For the last few months, most fire ant colonies have stayed below the surface of the ground because of the heat and dry weather. But, as we get some needed moisture, it floods their underground tunnels and causes the mounds to quickly start popping up as the ants move up out of the saturated soil.
Many people dont realize it, but fall is a good time to work at controlling fire ants. The main reason to consider using control methods in the fall is that they can weaken the colonies and make them less able to respond to the challenges of winter weather. Since fire ants are so sensitive to cold weather, anything you can do to reduce the number of ants available to gather food and establish deep tunnels makes the colony less able to survive the winter months.
The approaching winter is only one of four reasons fire ants are easier to kill in the fall. Another reason is that they are more active. Fire ants are most active in the spring and the fall, when daytime temperatures are between 70 and 85 degrees. This makes the fire ant baits more effective, since the foraging ants will pick it up and carry it into the nest within minutes.
The third reason they are more vulnerable in the fall is that they are not too deep in the ground, which makes them easier to control with contact insecticides. A final advantage to controlling them in the fall is that you are treating them when many of the colonies in your yard are very young. Many of these young colonies are not noticeable in the fall, but if they go untreated, they will become the big mounds you see pop up in the spring.
Fire ants can be controlled by either using bait or contact insecticides. Each method has its benefits and are sold under a number of different trade names. Both methods work well, but you should keep in mind that it is impossible to totally eradicate fire ants.
For more detailed information about controlling fire ants, contact the Walker County Extension Office at (706) 638-2548.
Norman Edwards is coordinator of Walker County Extension Service.
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