Which fire ant bait should I use?

Imported Fire Ants February 05, 2014|Print

January 2014 Update of Fire Ant Bait Products


Most of the currently available fire ant baits work very well when applied according to label instructions. The key to using baits is patience. If you use a bait product and apply it properly, a broadcast application should give 80% to 95% control.

Fire ant bait application tips:

  • Make sure the bait is fresh (less than a year old).
  • Apply when ants are foraging for food (when temperatures are 65 to 90 degrees F).
  • Apply when there is no chance for rain for at least four hours.
  • Always read and follow label directions.

Choose a bait based on three factors:

  1. cost
  2. speed (how quickly you want fire ant control)
  3. duration (how long you want to wait between bait applications).

Active ingredient determines how a fire ant bait works:

  • Some baits contain an insecticide that kills all ants that ingest a sufficient dose, including the workers and the queen.
  • Other baits contain a synthetic insect hormone called an IGR (insect growth regulator) that reduces the production of viable eggs and redirects larval development to prevent production of new worker ants. IGR's do not directly kill the queen or the adult workers.

Currently, nine insect control chemicals are used as active ingredients in fire ant baits: abamectin, fenoxycarb. fipronil, hydramethylnon, indoxacarb, metaflumizone, s-methoprene, pyriproxyfen, and spinosad.

Get the latest on Fire Ant Bait Products by clicking on the link at the beginning of this article.

Product Availability

A number of products for homeowner use are available at retail outlets (see Resources), but not all are available everywhere. If you are having trouble finding a fire ant bait, expand your search to hardware stores, farmers' co-ops, pesticide distributors, and do-it-yourself pest control stores.

Where to Use Fire Ant Baits

Be sure to use bait only in sites specified on the product label.  For example:

  • Amdro Pro, Esteem, Extinguish Professional Fire Ant Bait, and Extinguish Plus can be applied to active cattle pastures and hayfields.
  • Extinguish Professional Fire Ant Bait can be used on most cropland and vegetable plots.
  • Fertilome Come and Get It! Fire Ant Killer and Green Light Fire Ant Control with Conserve can be used on home garden plots and many commercial vegetables and fruits. These baits are OMRI approved for organic production systems.
  • Esteem can be used by commercial growers in many tree fruits and nut orchards as well as in certain vegetable and fruit crops.

Note: Not every fire ant control product is registered (legal to use) in every state. Product availability may be limited, especially in western states with very few fire ants. Purchase your fire ant control material in the state where you live, and make sure you find "fire ants" on the label of the pesticide. Your county Extension office can help you confirm if a particular pesticide is registered in your state.

Broadcast Application

The most effective way to apply bait is to broadcast it. Small areas can be broadcast using a handheld seed spreader. Larger areas can be treated using seeders with a larger hopper and a wider swath width.

A fire ant bait has three ingredients:

  • The insect control chemical (called the active ingredient) is dissolved in
  • soybean oil, which attracts the ants. The oil is absorbed onto a
  • corn-based carrier, allowing the bait to be easily spread.

How Baits Work

Fire ant workers quickly pick up the bait, moving the active ingredient into the fire ant colony and away from other organisms. Fire ant baits, when applied as directed, pose minimal risk to the environment because they contain such a small amount of active ingredient.

The ants extract the toxicant-laden oil and feed it to other members of the colony. Because the active ingredient is relatively slow acting, there is ample time for the material to be fed to the queen.

Baits are the most effective method to keep the queen from reproducing. Baits also effectively treat mounds not large enough to be seen. For more information see the Resources section at end of this article.

Target Specificity

Fire ant bait products are formulated specifically for the targeted red, black, or hybrid imported fire ants. In areas where these exotic invasive fire ants are prominent (e.g., more than 20 ant mounds per acre), these surface-dominant foraging fire ants out-compete nontarget ants for the broadcast applied bait. However, where fire ant population levels are low, non-target ants attracted to the soybean oil formulation may be affected by the treatment.

The food lure in conventionally formulated granular fire ant bait product formulations (soybean oil) is not attractive to many other pest ant species in and around the home, particularly to sugar-feeding ants.

One bait product, Amdro Ant Block containing hydramethylnon, has been modified with the addition of sugar to make it attractive to a wider array of pest ant species such as the Texas leaf-cutting ant.

MaxForce Professional Insect Control Granular Bait is formulated on ground silkworm pupae, a protein, making it attractive to other pest ant species.

Resources

 

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