Controlling Fire Ants in Pastures & Hay Fields

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fire ants

Written by: Lauren Langley, Livestock Extension Agent | Source: S. B. Bambara & Wes Watson, NC State Extension Entomologists

Fire ants are pretty well established here in Alamance County and some of them like to call your pasture or hayfield home. Whether you are dealing with one mound or a hundred mounds in some cases, you need to know what to do for control.

Fire ants can negatively impact your livestock or hay operation and cost you time and money. Impact may be felt through:

  • Lost Labor
  • Animal Injury
  • Equipment Damage/Wear
  • Hay Production
  • Medical/Veterinary Costs
  • Forage Degradation
  • Electrical Equipment Damage
  • Infested Feed
  • Reduced Feeding
  • Young Animal Endangerment

There are a few pesticides labeled for fire ant control in a pasture or hayfield situation. Some are for directly treating the mound and others are for broadcasting an infested area where there are a lot of mounds. There are also some pesticides that are for use only in horse pastures (where horses are not used for human consumption) and non-pasture farm areas. As always, please read the label and follow restrictions and directions for using in pasture. For an updated list of insecticides approved for pasture use please refer to this table.

fire ant mound

Here are a few tips to help increase your success when applying a pesticide to control fire ants:

Do not apply baits and drench at the same time.

Allow 7-10 days between the two application. Ants will not forage and accept bait while they are disrupted by poison.

The best months to treat are mid-spring and fall. The best time of day to treat is mid-morning when air temperatures are around 70 degrees F.

To check and see if fire ants are active, place potato chips or cheese puffs on the ground. If ants are noticed within 5-10 minutes then they are considered active and foraging.

Additional tips when applying baits:

Do not apply if ground is wet or rain occurs within 36 hours. Do not store open product for longer than package allows– most products have a short shelf life. Do not store baits near other pesticides or fuel from which they may absorb odors and taste. Do not apply baits directly on top of the mound, fire ants do not come and go from the top of the mound. Do not disturb mounds when applying baits, this can interfere with their foraging behavior.

Remember, always read the label and follow directions! Some products may require you to reapply! You cannot get rid of fire ants overnight, just like anything else it will take time. Formulate a plan and stick to it so you can reclaim your pasture back.

To view the original publication and for more information please see the publication Fire Ants in Pastures.

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