Many people don’t realize it, but the late summer/early fall time period is a good time to work at controlling fire ants. The main reason to consider using control methods at this time is that they can weaken the colonies and make them less able to respond to the challenges of winter weather. Since fire ants are so sensitive to cold weather, anything you can do to reduce the number of ants available to gather food and establish deep tunnels makes the colony less able to survive the winter.
The approaching winter is only one of several reasons that fall fire ant control is important. Another reason is that they are more active. Fire ants are most active in the spring and the fall, when we have mild daytime temperatures. This makes the fire ant baits more effective, since the foraging ants will pick it up and carry it into the nest within minutes. The mild temperatures we are currently experiencing are ideal for fire ants to get out and forage for food.
The third reason they are more vulnerable in the fall is that they are not too deep in the ground, which makes them easier to control with contact insecticides.
A final advantage to controlling them in the fall is that you are treating them when many of the colonies in your yard are very young. Many of these young colonies are not noticeable in the fall, but if they go untreated, they will become the big mounds you see pop up in the spring.
Fire ants can be controlled by using bait or contact insecticides. Each method has its benefits and are sold under a number of different trade names. Both work well, but you should keep in mind that it is impossible to totally eradicate fire ants.
For more detailed information about controlling fire ants, contact the Walker County Extension Office at 638-2548.
Norman Edwards is coordinator of Walker County Extension Service.