Texas A&M recommends Texas Two-Step for Fire Ant Control – PCT

Now is an ideal time to take the first step in fire ants control, according to experts at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

“Spring is a good time to start fighting the imported redfire ants because this is the time of year when the ants look for food and start building those mounds that make it a lot easier to find,” said Mike Merchant, Ph. D., AgriLife Extension Urban Entomologist at Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Dallas.

He also noted that treating fire ants with more people stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic may be a perfect job for the property owner who is “insane” to go outside.

The trader said the two-step method is AgriLife Extension’s preferred method for fire ants control. The first step involves shipments of fire ant bait every six months. The second involves post-treatment of individual mounds or “disruptive” ant colonies, for example in sensitive or heavily frequented areas.

“The two-step method is less labor-intensive, less toxic and more environmentally friendly than most other means of self-control of fire ants,” he said.

The trader said using fire ant bait as a first step is effective when temperatures rise and the ants start collecting food to feed their new brood.

“Spring and fall are particularly good times to put bait,” he said. “When it gets hot and dry, like in the summer months, fire ants become less active and hills become less visible as the ants penetrate deeper into the ground.”

Baits also have the benefit of eliminating the need for users to find the fire ant colonies, noted Robert Puckett, Ph.D. AgriLife Extension Entomologist, College Station.

“Fire ant colonies can be difficult to locate, especially in a large area, so using a bait is less costly in terms of time and amount of product to treat larger areas,” Puckett said. “With bait, ants pick up the bait and return it to the nest so they can do most of the work for you.”

He said the concentration of fire ant bait is very low compared to insecticides in residential areas.

“The effectiveness of baits may vary, but they all work pretty well,” he said. “However, the faster acting baits are usually more expensive, so you have to weigh up whether the effort is worth the result.”

Step two

“Since fire anthills are best visible at this time of year, especially after a rain, they are easier to locate for the second step,” said Merchant. “This includes treating the largest or most problematic mounds with an individual mound treatment, such as

For fire ant colonies next to structures or in high-traffic areas that require quick inspection, the property owner should take the second step and treat these mounds individually with a contact insecticide. Otherwise this step is optional.

“Most contact insecticides that are applied directly to the mound kill the colony within a day or two,” Puckett said. “If there are only a few hills in the area, it may not even be necessary to use bait in the first step.”

He said the most important message he can give is to follow the directions on the label and not try to mix too little or too much water when using a liquid insecticide.

“These products have been tested for efficacy and safety at a specific concentration, so you don’t want to guess what may or may not happen if you deviate from instructions,” he said. “Also, remember to wear proper protection like gloves and possibly even safety glasses when mixing chemicals. Remember to protect yourself and protect the environment. ”

Community fire ant control

While the two-step method can be successfully used by individual property owners, it can be even more effective when people across an entire neighborhood work together to control the spread of fire ant colonies.

This is what Wizzie Brown, Integrated Pest Management Specialist for AgriLife Extension in Travis County, along with fellow residents of the Wood Glen Ward, Round Rock, have been doing since 2005.

The Wood Glen parish consists of 548 homes plus a community park, green belt and walking trails.

“To the best of my knowledge, this is the longest-running community-wide fire ant program in the state,” Brown said. “Neighbors band together twice a year to bait the entire neighborhood.

Involving the entire community also helps limit the spread of fire ant activity from one property to another, she said. The Wood Glen community recently coordinated the part of the two-step method for fire ant bait transfer.

Brown said similar community-wide fire ant control efforts have taken place in other primarily urban counties of Texas in collaboration with integrated pest specialists at AgriLife Extension.

“The success of the Wood Glen program is largely down to the community’s active engagement with a dedicated and helpful community of owners,” said Brown. “You don’t need a neighborhood entomologist to run a successful pest control program. All you need is a community champion and people in the community who are ready to support it. “

Correct use of fire ant control products

According to Merchant, AgriLife Extension also developed the Two-Step Method to help consumers understand all of the fire ant control products on the market.

“The insecticide label determines where a product can be used, be it a lawn, a garden, an agricultural pasture or an orchard,” said Merchant. “Users should always read the pesticide label to make sure the area they are treating is listed and then follow all directions on the label.”

He also suggested the following tips for controlling fire ants:

• Do not use gasoline or other petroleum products to control fire ants. While these kill fire ants, they are highly flammable and dangerous to both the user and the environment.

• Do not leave granular insecticide on streets or sidewalks after application. Sweep up excess product so it doesn’t wash down gutters or storm sewers and affect the water table.

• Always follow the directions on the label for proper disposal of pesticides. Do not dump any pesticide residue down the drain as regular wastewater treatment will not easily remove it.

“The two-step approach can be an efficient, effective, and safe way to control fire ants for a single home, a large property, or an entire community,” said Merchant.

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