Friday, March 16, 2012

Treating fire ants in certain backyard situations

With the combination of rainfall and warm temperatures, fire ants are already taking a very active role this spring.  We have numerous mounds in the demonstration garden in front of our office- I was out there Monday treating- and I'm sorry to say that I have several in my yard as well.  I plan to treat them this weekend as I explained to the boy last night. 

While I was fixing dinner, the boy went into the backyard to look for "roly-polies".  After he harassed the cat, he called into me to come outside.  I went to see what was up and he pointed to the fire ant mound right next to the patio and said "Mommy, you need to get rid of those fire ants!"  I explained that I would treat them this weekend.  "But mommy, you need to treat them now!"  I reiterated that they would be treated this weekend and suggested that he should go play out in the yard where there aren't any fire ants. "Okay, I'll go play on my pirate ship!"  Problem solved and I got to continue with dinner.

I've had questions about how to treat fire ants in certain areas.  While broadcasting baits over an area is a great idea to save time and reduce chemical use by not having to locate and treat each individual mound, baits may not be the best choice in certain situations. 

When treating in vegetable gardens or landscapes that have food crops interspersed between other plants, if you want to use a bait, you need to choose wisely.  There is a spinosad bait product that you can use within vegetable gardens and it would also be a good option for landscapes with food crops sprinkled about. Other items that can be used in vegetable gardens would be d-limonene mound drenches or pyrethrin/ DE dust.  Some people choose to drench individual mounds with boiling water, but you must be careful handling the water as well as be aware that boiling water will kill any vegetation it comes into contact with.

Compost piles are another possibly puzzling area for fire ant treatment.  Some choose to leave the fire ants within the compost pile because they can help to aerate the compost by creating tunnels and chambers.  The downfalls of leaving fire ants in place would be that they may feed on other creatures that live within the compost pile and you would need to figure out what to do with the stinging possibility when want to apply the compost.  Another option would be to use boiling water to drench the fire ant area of the compost.  Boiling water may kill off some of the beneficial organisms with in the compost.  It is also possible to bait around the outside of the compost with the product of your choice.

Regardless of your choice, please use caution when managing fire ants.  Not only should you read and follow all product label instructions, but also take care when around these stinging ants.

Friday, March 2, 2012

2012 Educational Programs on Insects

Want more information on insects?  Then join me every three months this year to learn about a variety of insect topics.  Here's what coming in 2012:

March 14, 2012 at 9AM- Bed bugs

June 13, 2012 at 9AM- Beneficials

September 12, 2012 at 9AM- Stinging & biting arthropods

December 12, 2012 at 9AM- Stored product pests

These programs are free of charge and will be held at the Travis County Extension Office at 1600-B Smith Road, Austin, TX 78721.  For additional information, please call me at 512-854-9600.