There is a fire ant frenzy popping out of the ground in Gastonia, NC ! During both the first week of May and the first week of June we were drenched with 5 inches of rain. Heat + rain = fire ant mounds !
Fire ants were accidentally imported into Mobile, Alabama about 1930. Since then, they have spread rapidly into most of the southeastern states and a few western states primarily through commerce. They are now in most of NC except some of the northern tier counties. Fire ants have become an increasing problem in Gastonia, NC lawns over the past 5 years. We have to accept that we will never get rid of them, but they can be managed. Professional lawn care businesses with a pesticide license have a few additional products available that are not sold in stores. Fire ants produce mounds that may continue to enlarge as the population grows. Young colonies may not have mounds. Mounds are located in sunny areas and often next to sidewalks, driveways or other heat absorbing masses. They frequently “pop up” following rain.
THE DANGER OF FIRE ANT STINGS
When fire ant mounds are disturbed, fire ants quickly attack in a swarm, resulting in multiple stings by multiple ants. The stings cause a burning sensation due to the high concentration of toxins in fire ant venom. Each sting brings a red bump with a white pustule that can cause infections, allergic reactions or, in very rare cases, death by allergic reaction. This pest is particularly dangerous to small children and pets.
Those who experience a normal reaction can treat the sting with first aid techniques. First use a cold cloth or ice to reduce swelling and minimize pain, employing a “10 minutes on, 10 minutes off” regimen. If the stinging or itching is particularly bothersome, over-the-counter antihistamine and calamine or steroid cream may provide relief. Be sure to wash the affected area lightly with soapy water, taking care not to break the pustule, which can lead to infection or scarring.
The best seasons to treat fire ants are late spring and early fall before the temperatures become too cool. However, if you have an active mound in an inconvenient location, you can mound drench on any warm day. Fire ant control measures will not be successful if one thinks that a single application of treatment will last forever. There are 2 methods of treatment – baiting and direct mound treatment.
Baiting may be broadcast across the entire turf. Baits generally, should not be applied directly onto the mound. Ants do not forage on top of the mound. Fire ant entrances are located around the outside edges of a mound. Baits are actually food and depend upon that food being attractive for the ants to take it in. Some baits are direct poisons and some are insect growth regulators which, instead, cause the colony to die out more gradually. Baits are slower acting than direct mound poisons so do not expect results overnight. Baits rely on foragers to collect the food and bring it back to the rest of the colony to eat. In mid-morning before baiting, drop one or two potato chips near a mound. If ants are consuming the potato chips at 20 minutes, it is a good time to apply bait. Bait should be purchased fresh and only stored for a short period of time. It should be not be applied to wet grass or when rain is expected with 24 hours. A popular bait is Amdro (active ingredient hydramethylnon).
DIRECT CONTACT TREATMENT (NON-BAIT INSECTICIDES)
Directly treating a mound is the fastest method for killing a specific mound. Even so, it is hard to kill every ant and more importantly the queen(s), with certainty. Mounds can be treated directly with insecticide. The insecticide could be powder or granules that are applied atop the mound and then watered into the soil, or they may be dry or liquid insecticides that are mixed with water and then drenched onto the mound. Mid-morning is a good time when temperatures are not too hot nor too cool and mound ants are near the surface.
Over the past 5 years at Morrison Lawn & Landscape we have broadcast spread Amdro fire ant bait in our customers’ Gastonia and Bessemer City lawns. This year we have rotated to a different product in an effort to reduce fire ant resistance to treatment. We are currently using the active ingredient in Talstar (bifenthrin). The product is a granular insecticide under the trade name Cross-Check. In addition to being effective on fire ants, it also works on regular ants and a long list of other pests, including a variety of bugs, worms, ticks, and fleas. The product is broadcast spread under dry conditions and then should be watered-in for activation of the bifenthin. This has been a great choice for our customers. Due to all of the recent rain, ant hills have popped up everywhere and they’re not just fire ants. The Cross-Check is a good “bang for the buck” – it’s an insecticide with a broad spectrum of effectiveness that is reasonably priced and should last for about 3 months. Is an insecticide necessary for everyone? No. However, it may be helpful those who have small children or pets who play on the turf. It may also be beneficial to those who have a history of fire ant mounds in previous years.
At Morrison Lawn & Landscape, we are a licensed ornamental and turf pesticide applicator. If you have interest for us to visit your Gastonia, NC property for a free consultation for lawn service and herbicide, fungicide, and insecticide needs, contact us today at (704) 813-2545. Click here to contact us via email.