Last summer and fall, the fire ants were in decline. Perhaps it was due to an unusually dry and hot summer, or maybe the release of a natural predatory wasp called a Phorrid Fly by the guys at UGA. Whatever the reason, I was happy to notice fewer fire ant mounds in the landscapes that I manage. Well, this spring, they’re baaaaaaaaack! A mild winter along with the recent rains have caused a near explosion of fire ant mounds. Frankly, many of the mounds can be minimized simply by mowing over them. That repeated mowing of the mounds is what I call ‘harassment’. It doesn’t kill the mound but the ants will either be subdued or will move the mound somewhere else.
A better treatment is to use a fire ant bait like Amdro to control them. These control products are mixed with corn gluten which the ants will gather as food. They will carry the little yellow granules into the mound and feed it to their little ant buddies, as well as to the queen (or queens!). It takes about 10 days for this stuff to show it’s effects, but Brother, it works! Ants will haul out their dead and place them in one area near the mound, sort of like that scene out of Monty Python’s Holy Grail where the character trudges along the village street banging on a pot and shouting, “Bring out your dead!”.
These baits have a very low application rate, usually about one pound per acre, and it only takes two applications a year to get very good control. When you go to your favorite Garden Center to purchase this stuff, pick up a little hand-held spreader that looks like a flour sifter. It’s the best way I know to apply a bait like this. When you apply it remember you don’t have to get total coverage, as you would with a fertilizer or weed control. Just make a pass every 25 feet or so until you get enough out to meet the correct application rate.
The time to apply this is now! (Late March to early April), then again in September when the ants are foraging for winter. It may not totally eliminate your fire ant problem, but you will notice a significant decline in the number of mounds.