Managing fire ants in the lawn

Written by: Dr. Wayne Wells, Horticulture Specialist Submitted by: Juli Hughes, County Director MSU Extension Service – Choctaw County

Warmer weather and recent rains have enhanced fire ant activity with more mounds becoming visible in our lawns. Not only are the mounds unsightly but the sting from fire ants are extremely painful and for some people even life threatening. Therefore, controlling fireants should be as much a part of your lawn management activities as mowing, watering, and fertilizing. There are several methods of controlling fire ants but baits are probably the most convenient and easiest products for homeowners to apply. They also are effective in controlling tiny new mounds that we might overlook hidden in the turf canopy. Adhering to a few application tips will ensure the most effective use of bait. 1) Don’t apply too much. The rate for most bait is only one to two pounds per acre. 2) Use fresh bait. Ants are not attracted to old bait that has gone rancid. 3) Since fire ants forage for their food apply bait by broadcasting it over the entire lawn and not just on top of mounds. 4) Avoid applying bait just before rainfall and do not irrigate for at least two days after applying. 5) Be patient as bait is slow-acting. 6) Apply fire ant bait preventivly. Don’t wait till you see large mounds. By the time mounds are visible several smaller unseen colonies are being established. 7) Apply bait up to three times per year, spring, summer, and fall for season long control. 8) Eliminate mounds the bait misses with additional individual mound treatments. Several excellent publications on fire ant control are available at your local extension office or can be downloaded from the extension web at www.msucares.com. Once at the home page simply type fire ants in the search box.