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Fire ant mound covered by clover

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—Fire ants are a great issue for farmers on many levels. Not only do they cost famers time and money but they can cause damage to equipment. Whether it is in pastures or hay fields, farmers must determine the best option to treat fire ants.

Should I Treat My Fields?

Dr. Fudd Graham, an Alabama Extension entomologist, said the first step to treatment is to determine the level of infestation and the treatment it requires.

“First determine if it is necessary to treat the pasture,” said Graham. “Unless it is a calving pasture, it may not be economical to treat. Hayfields are another story since the mounds can damage equipment.”

Extension professionals have developed a worksheet to help farmers decide if their pasture systems would benefit from fire ant treatment.

Choosing Bait

If treatment is necessary, producers must learn how to properly treat fire ants with the most control for the lowest cost. For hayfield and pasture situations, the proper choice is fire ant bait. Farmers must pick a fire ant bait registered for their site use.

Spreading Equipment

Graham, who is also a researcher in the Auburn University department of entomology and plant pathology, said for medium and large sized pastures, it is best to apply bait using a GT-77 Herd Seeder. Alabama Extension has more than 40 of these seeders available for producers to borrow.

Because of the small amount of bait applied, fertilizer spreaders do not work as they apply too much material. Seeders with rotating agitators tend to turn the bait into an oily mush that clogs the seeder. The Herd seeder features a vibrating agitator, which prevents clogging as the bait exits the seeder.

Treatment Recommendations

Farmers should only use fresh fire ant bait. If the bait is rancid, it will not attract ants. Graham recommends broadcast applications only when ants are actively foraging, from spring to fall. Ants do not forage in extreme heat. Therefore, make summer applications in the morning or evening hours. The attractant in the bait is a vegetable oil and will dry out if applied during the heat of the day when ants are not foraging.

Graham said one to two pasture treatments per year should be enough to keep the fire ant population in check.

“Most producers can treat pastures once a year in September, preferably with a bait containing an insect growth regulator, and get good control,” Graham said. “If you require two treatments per year, apply in June and September. Insect growth regulator baits provide a longer fire ant free period than do the fast-acting baits.”

More Information

For more information on fire ant treatment and control, visit Alabama Extension online at www.aces.edu. There is also more information on fire ants that can be found here www.eXtension.org/fire_ants.

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