Fire ants are the most active in the spring and fall, when daytime temperatures are between 70-80 degrees. This increased activity makes control methods for the ants work much better. These ants can be controlled using either a “bait type” or a “contact type” insecticide. Both, the bait and contact insecticides are sold under many different brand names.
In the spring, we usually recommend using a bait insecticide and treat the entire area around your home. The ants will pick-up this type insecticide and carry it back to the other ants at their mound. Bait insecticides will not kill ants overnight, but usually give good control in 7-10 days. Most baits should not be used if rain is forecasted in the next three or four days, and the temperature needs to be mild enough that the ants will be actively feeding; so watch the weather forecast before applying a fire ant bait. Most of the bait products are most effective on fire ants and may give little or even no control on other types of ants.
Contact insecticides can also be used, but they must be applied directly to each mound and come into contact with each ant to be effective. Contact insecticides seem to give immediate control, since they start killing the ants within a few of hours after contacting them.
Although both methods usually work well, you should keep in mind that it is impossible to totally get rid of fire ants. Regardless of which route you decide to take, be sure to follow all the label instructions on the insecticide container and make sure the product is labeled for use in the area you plan to treat. Many products labeled for our home lawn cannot be used in pasture, vegetable gardens, around wells and other similar areas.
For more information about controlling fire ants in your particular situation, call the Walker County Extension Office at 638-2548.
Norman Edwards is coordinator of Walker County Extension Service.