How Can I Identify and Manage Fire Ants?

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As warm weather approaches, those pesky fire ants become more active. Red Imported Fire Ants can be identified several ways. One way to identify this species of fire ants is by knowing their biological traits. The adult fire ants are reddish to dark brown color. There are several different adult fire ants you should know about. The first one is known as the minor worker fire ant. They are about one-eighth of an inch in length. Next is the major worker, which is about one-quarter of an inch in length. Third, is the winged male and female fire ants, which are approximately one-third of an inch in length. Last, is the queen that measures approximately one-third of an inch in length.

Another method to identify Red Imported Fire Ants is by feeding them. Fire ants prefer oily, greasy foods such as regular potato chips and deep-fried french fries. To use this method place a greasy potato chip or french fry near the mound and step away with out disturbing the mound. Revisit the site within thirty minutes to one hour and observe from a distance. If there are ants on the greasy, oily food, then they are fire ants.

Currently there is no direct way to successfully eradicate Red Imported Fire Ants. Management of fire ants is the best route to take. Managing fire ants with chemical and non-chemical methods will help minimize infestations. The areas that require immediate attention are those that could pose a health risk to humans, pets, and livestock. Sanitation is the first step in managing fire ants. You should frequently empty, clean, and sanitize your trash receptacles. This also includes keeping the area where they are stored clean and free of any attractants. Be sure to keep your landscape plants neatly pruned way from the building. In other words, don’t allow the foliage of landscape plants to touch the structure they surround. Fire ants will use plants as a bridge to overcome the treated areas of fire ant chemicals.

When using chemical treatments, always read and follow label directions before making applications. There is an array of different products on the market. There are: liquid mound treatments, bait treatments, and broadcast treatments. It is best to determine which product or combination of products to use by evaluating your property. If you only have a couple of mounds, then baits would be the way to go. If you have a highly infested area, then it may require a combination of a broadcast product and a bait product. You should look for products that contain one of these active ingredients: indoxacarb, methoprene, pyrethroids, pyriproxyfen, spinosad, or hydromethylnon. Products should be easily obtainable from your local garden center. Again, be sure to read and follow label directions accordingly.

Reminder:  If you would like to learn more about Horticultural related topics, then join the “Sampson County Friends of Horticulture”. This program offers monthly “How To” Horticultural Seminars. Please call (910) 592-7161 for more information. Please call the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center at (910) 592-7161 with your horticultural questions and to register for any upcoming events. Be sure to check out the Ask An Expert Widget at for any questions you may have.