Published on 08/28/08

Chemical control choice the key

By Sharon Dowdy

Fall is the perfect time to rid your lawn of fire ants, but the kind of pesticide you chose will determine how quickly and how long you’ll keep the biting pests at bay, says a University of Georgia expert.

Baits hit mounds

“Fire ant baits are designed to rid your lawn of mounds but not necessarily kill all the fire ants,” said Will Hudson, an entomologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Other products eliminate all the ants."

The newest lines of fire ant baits contain indoxacarb as their main chemical ingredient. It’s sold under the brand name Advion, Hudson said. The same active ingredient is available in homeowner products including Once 'n' Done.

Baits are applied at a lower rate, “about a pound and a half per acre,” he said. Fire ant mounds typically disappear in five to 10 days after indoxacarb is applied compared to three to eight weeks for older baits.

Once isn't always enough

Fire ant baits provide quick and noticeable results, but Hudson warns that one treatment sometimes isn’t enough. “A second treatment in a month or two may be necessary for complete control,” he said. “These new baits are attractive to homeowners because they are quick, but they’re also more expensive.”

The chemical fipronil, sold under the trade name Top Choice and homeowner products like Over 'n' Out, will control fire ants for up to a year, Hudson said.

“This product is expensive, and homeowners often try to stretch their dollar by not applying the proper amount,” he said. “Doing this is not only ineffective; it’s more costly in the end.”

Hudson warns homeowners to be leery of pesticide product claims that sound too good to be true. “Some products containing peremthrin promise a year of control,” he said. “That just isn’t going to happen.”

Individual choice

He recommends homeowners select the control method that best suits their individual needs.

“If you want to make sure there are no fire ants around your kids’ playground and your family can picnic on the lawn, you need to use a fipronil- or pyrethroid-based product,” Hudson said. "If 'no mounds' is good enough, then the baits applied twice a year will do the job at a lower cost."

For advice on the best control method for your situation, contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension agent at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.