Syngenta Professional Pest Management: Ants

|  April 29, 2013

By Dr. ElRay Roper, Senior Technical Representative

Fire ants are more than a nuisance; they can cause painful stings and scars. To control them, it is important to understand their biology and habits, as well as the benefits and disadvantages offered by various control methods.

Fire ant queens can lay thousands of eggs each day, and can fly as far as 10 miles away from the parent colony and infest other areas. Within three to five weeks, ants fully develop into either adult workers or reproductives. Because fire ants reproduce in high quantities and develop quickly, you need to continuously monitor the area to choose an appropriate treatment for the infestation.

There are three types of application methods that are effective for controlling fire ants:

Baits offer a variety of benefits. They are more target-specific, cost-effective and can be used in sensitive places such as commercial kitchens and around electrical equipment. Baits can be slower acting, which is beneficial when controlling fire ants. The delayed mode of action allows adult ants to carry the bait back to the colony to feed to the larvae, which then convert it into liquid for the adults to eat, infecting the entire colony.

Mound treatments, where individual mounds are treated with a dry or liquid insecticide, provide quick control. It is important not to disturb the mound before treatment. If you do, the queen(s) could be moved to a different location, which will only relocate the colony rather than eliminate it. While control is much faster compared to using baits, mound treatments can only be applied to mounds that are visible. It is very likely that smaller mounds exist and will grow larger once the other mounds have been treated.

Broadcast applications can be used to spread an insecticide over a large area infested with fire ants. This helps to eliminate colonies in large and small mounds, including the queen(s); however, it could disrupt other beneficial ant communities.

Fire ants are persistent, so often it’s the use of a combination of treatments and products that provides effective control for your customers. Be sure to educate yourself about the reproduction, feeding and living habits of fire ants, and take the time to determine which integrated approach is best to manage individual infestations.

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