Tips for winter fire ant control

By Todd Vineyard | Published Wednesday, January 3, 2018

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Winter in Texas means cooler temperatures and less time out of doors. This does not always mean fewer insects, however.

Fire ants are generally less active during the winter months, but with our urban environments providing warmer pockets of habitat, these pesky insects continue to mound up in very annoying locations.

The fire ants’ food needs change through the year. In temperatures below 75 degrees the queen slows down her egg production, thus the nutritional needs of the colony are changed. In colder weather conditions the ants do not seek out the high protein, oily foods as they do in warm weather. Because of this change in food choice, the ants will not feed on the typical fire ant bait formulated products (Amdro, Spectracide, Logic) which significantly reduces the effectiveness of these products. Neither broadcasting bait nor individually treating one mound at a time with bait will produce satisfactory results in cold weather.

Individual mound treatments are more effective fire ant control methods under these conditions. There are over 100 different products labeled for individual mound treatments of fire ants. Products for individual mound treatments vary in their formulations and active ingredients.

For success with individual mound treatments for fire ant control:

  • Most dry formulations should be followed by 1-2 gallons of water, as directed.
  • Do not disturb the mound unnecessarily.
  • Do not create runoff when watering in the product.
  • Mix liquid products according to their label instructions.
  • Apply products on warm, sunny afternoons. The ants will be closer to the surface, and you will achieve better control.
  • When purchasing materials, note warnings about non-target organisms and apply as directed on the label.
  • Never dispose of unused chemicals down the drain as this introduces pollutants which the treatment plants are not equipped to remove. This harms the environment.

Effective cool season fire ant treatments focus on individual mound treatments using the properly labeled materials. Bait-formulated products are not effective in these temperatures because the ants will not feed on the baits. We will not be able to completely eradicate fire ants. However, with persistent treatment and the cooperation of neighbors we can greatly reduce the impact fire ants have on our daily lives.

Todd Vineyard is a Wise County Extension agent.

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